When President Joe Biden signed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022 into law, his goal was allegedly to promote semiconductor research and manufacturing in the United States. This goal was undermined when the Biden administration subsequently announced a number of limitations on CHIPS funding beyond those included in the Act. The new restrictions prioritize funding for companies that comply with the administration’s preferences on issues ranging from the provision of child care benefits to the use of union labor.
In at least one case, the Biden administration went a step beyond creating new limitations and actually subverted the will of Congress. As the CHIPS Act was headed to a joint House-Senate conference committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a motion to instruct committee members to “require each beneficiary of Federal financial assistance for semiconductor manufacturing to be banned from purchasing the stock of the beneficiary,” among other things.
His proposed ban on stock buybacks was soundly rejected by a Senate vote of 87 to 6.
That vote didn’t stop the Department of Commerce from later announcing: “the Department will evaluate [CHIPS funding] applications based on the extent of the applicant’s commitments to refrain from stock buybacks.”
The moral of the story is that it is possible to lose an 87 to 6 Senate vote and still come out a winner when Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo and President Joe Biden are on your side.
Text of Motion to Instruct
The Senator from Vermont [Mr. Sanders] moves that the managers on the part of the Senate at the conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the Senate amendment to the bill H.R. 4521 be instructed to insist that the final conference report include provisions that require each beneficiary of Federal financial assistance for semiconductor manufacturing to be banned from purchasing the stock of the beneficiary, from outsourcing employment opportunities of the beneficiary to any country outside of the United States, and from repealing any collective bargaining requirements of the beneficiary, and that require each such beneficiary to issue warrants and equity stakes in the enterprise of the beneficiary to the Federal Government and to remain neutral in any union organizing effort of the employees of the beneficiary.