Several Republicans who voted against the CHIPS and Science Act are taking credit for the bill’s support for tech hubs, many of which are devoted to energy and environmental issues.
The law was one of the major accomplishments of President Joe Biden’s first two years. And as they did with the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, GOP lawmakers who opposed the legislation are now cheering its benefits.
As next year’s elections approach, Democrats are planning to remind voters which party was the driving force behind programs to compete with China and address the climate crisis.
“[L]et’s not forget that the vast majority of congressional Republicans voted against the CHIPS and Science Act,” Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said on the act’s anniversary in August.
The bill was a bipartisan product in the Senate, sponsored by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), with backing from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It passed the chamber 64-32.
The dynamics were different in the House, where then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and many of the chamber’s hard-liners didn’t want to give Biden any wins. They also had philosophical differences about how to counter China. Only 24 House Republicans voted for the bill.
“Instead of voting to lower costs and bring good-paying jobs back to America … Republicans in Congress made clear they would rather side with China over American manufacturing,” said Harrison.
The CHIPS and Science Act included a $50 billion authorization for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and pumped billions of dollars to help U.S. manufacturers produce the semiconductors and chips necessary for electric cars and other clean tech.
It also created a program to fund Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs, which will compete for up to $75 million to develop and implement projects to “supercharge a critical technology ecosystem.”
Of the 31 tech hubs designated last month, 15 would directly assist the Biden administration’s climate goals. Ten of those are in states or districts represented by Republicans in Congress who did not vote for the CHIPS and Science Act.
And 10 of those Republicans are now either taking credit for helping secure funding or touting the money’s benefits to their states and districts.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), a top Democratic target, has been particularly effusive in her enthusiasm for the designation of the South Florida Climate Resilience Tech Hub, even though she voted against CHIPS and Science.
The consortium, led by Miami-Dade County, will focus on innovations and technologies around sustainable and resilient infrastructure.
"Miami is ground zero for sea-level rise, and we continue to lead the charge in developing resilient infrastructure," Salazar said in a statement, which was posted to her website and included in the administration's tech hub funding announcement.
"The establishment of a Tech Hub in Miami ensures we continue leading in innovation and technological advancement," she added, "while creating new jobs, growing our economy, and promoting national security."
Justin Chermol, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called the about-face "exactly the sort of insincere behavior that the public hates, and the DCCC will be sure to remind voters of Salazar’s do-nothing agenda over the next year.”
Schumer, meanwhile, could also in the coming months create a political quandary for Republicans: He has spoken of wanting the Senate to take up a "CHIPS 2.0" bill, something that has yet to generate GOP enthusiasm.
“The benefits of the CHIPS and Science Act are undeniable. Republicans who voted against the bill initially are finally seeing the light,” Schumer said in a statement to E&E News.
"When it comes to popular projects like Tech Hubs, Senate Republicans will have another opportunity to show their support and make the case for their states when it comes to continuing to fund these critical programs," he added.
It has become a trend for many congressional Republicans to support federal spending in their communities while not wanting to attach themselves to Democratic goals behind such investments, like fighting climate change and transitioning away from fossil fuels.
A recent report from the left-leaning nonprofit advocacy group Climate Power, for instance, found that of 388 clean energy projects that have advanced since passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, 200 of them are in congressional districts currently held by Republicans.
Uniform opposition to the massive climate and prescription drug bill, however, hasn’t stopped Republicans from attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies and rushing out press releases all across the country.
But unlike the IRA, which was passed through the budget reconciliation process, the CHIPS and Science Act went through “regular order” and was at one point widely bipartisan in both chambers.
In the Senate, though, many Republicans soured on the bill as lawmakers were closing in on final negotiations, bothered by new spending authorities without offsets. House Republicans had similar gripes.
“The CHIPS Act has many bad things in it — like zero protections to keep any of the $280 billion in taxpayer funds from subsidizing semiconductor manufacturing in foreign countries rather than the U.S,” said Mariza Smajlaj, a Salazar spokesperson.
"This is why [Salazar] opposed it. Regardless, it still became law, and therefore Rep. Salazar will continue to fight for any wins possible for Miami and support decisions that align with her priorities.”
Those priorities, Smajlaj said, “are creating jobs and improving coastal resiliency."
Earlier this month, Salazar was the co-sponsor of the “National Coordination on Adaptation and Resilience for Security Act," H.R. 6311, which would establish a White House chief resilience officer to streamline the federal government’s response to natural disasters.
For Republicans, another strike against the bill was a separate deal materializing around that time which paved the way for passage of the IRA.
Many GOP lawmakers were more willing to support a big spending package as long as the Democrats' massive budget reconciliation bill for climate and social spending was dead.
“Senate Democrats … announced, only hours after the [CHIPS and Science Act] passed the Senate, that they had struck an agreement on a partisan reconciliation bill,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said in July of 2022.
“While they call it the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ the opposite is true," she added. "The bill is poised to send our country into a crushing recession even faster, and it is inextricably linked to passage of the CHIPS and Science Act.”
Last month, Tenney thanked colleagues for their “bipartisan support” in helping her secure a tech hub designation for the New York Semiconductor Manufacturing and Research Technology Innovation Corridor, or NY SMART I-Corridor.
An official description of the project notes that the hub’s region is one where “90% of energy production is zero emission and clean energy supply is ample, including low-cost hydropower, which can be leveraged for energy-intensive semiconductor manufacturing.”
Tenney did not respond to requests for comment for this story through her press office.
Like Salazar’s spokesperson, other Republican press operations sought to play up their bosses’ contributions to the arena of innovation and clarify the circumstances under which the lawmakers might have supported the CHIPS and Science Act.
For example, Elliott Kelley, a spokesperson for Rep. Jeff Duncan, noted in a statement that the South Carolina Republican was the only member of his state’s congressional delegation to serve on the conference committee for the CHIPS and Science Act.
"He was committed to delivering bipartisan legislation that both sides of the aisle could support,” Kelley continued. “However, Democrats cut backroom deals that blew up any chance to negotiate in good faith. Democrats chose to pass CHIPS with minimal Republican support rather than craft bipartisan legislation that could have been much better and put China on its heels."
Duncan said in the White House press release that the designation of the SC Nexus for Advanced Resilient Energy tech hub, a consortium led by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, will "leverage the region’s dynamic and growing manufacturing base" to "innovate and commercialize emerging energy storage materials” and integrate “renewable energy” into the state’s electrical grid.
"I’m honored to have helped facilitate continued energy technology development in South Carolina to increase the resiliency and reliability of America’s energy grid while also delivering jobs for South Carolinians," Duncan said in the statement.
A press release on the website of Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, similarly credited the Idaho Republican with laying the groundwork for the Inland Northwest’s American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Tech Hub.
The hub, one of two to be awarded in the state, will “develop domestic supply chains … to meet the strong and growing demand for the materials that will enable more — and more sustainable — air travel."
It was selected, according to the press release, “as a result of Risch’s legislation, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act," an early iteration of what would be expanded and signed into law.
Risch has been "a leader and chief supporter of American-led semiconductor technology his entire career,” said his spokesperson, but he "voted against the CHIPS and Science Act due to last-minute changes that broadened the scope and expanse of the bill significantly."
Such nuance is not likely to be part of the election-year messaging. At the time of the tech hubs announcement last month, the DCCC put out a statement under the heading, “REMINDER: [Rep.] Brandon Williams Derided the CHIPS and Science Act Until It Became Politically Expedient."
The New York Republican, now in his first term in Congress, on the campaign trail in 2022 slammed the legislation as a “corporate welfare package for the profitable chip industry.”
Since that time, he has praised semiconductor manufacturing company Micron’s multibillion-dollar investment for a computer chip factory in his district.
Of the NY SMART I-Corridor announcement, Williams said he was “honored to build on the success” of local leaders in making central New York “a magnet of innovation and technological advancement.”
“MAGA extremist Brandon Williams derided legislation bringing billions of dollars in investment and creating good-paying jobs for New York’s 22nd Congressional District," DCCC spokesperson Ellie Dougherty said in response. “Central New Yorkers aren’t fooled.”
A spokesperson for Williams did not respond to a request for comment.