By KEVIN FREKING and ALAN FRAM, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Thursday to derail a bill designed to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing if Democrats revive his stalled economic and energy package.
The rejuvenation of the Democratic reconciliation package, central to President Joe Biden’s agenda, is far from certain. But with some signs of progress in negotiations, McConnell is moving to complicate Democratic plans. He is warning that Republicans would react by preventing separate semiconductor legislation from reaching the finish line in the coming weeks, despite bipartisan support for him.
“Let me be perfectly clear: There will be no bipartisan USICA while Democrats pursue a Partisan Reconciliation Bill,” McConnell tweeted, referring to the shortened name of the computer chip bill that passed the Senate last year.
Both houses of Congress have passed their versions of the legislation, which would include $52 billion in incentives for companies to locate chip manufacturing plants in the US. Lawmakers are now trying to reconcile considerable differences between the two bills. , but at a pace that has supporters worried the job won’t be done before lawmakers take their August recess.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said McConnell was “taking hostage” a bipartisan package that would lower the cost of countless products that rely on semiconductors and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry.
“Senate Republicans are literally choosing to help China compete with the US to protect big pharmaceutical companies,” Jean-Pierre said. “This takes loyalty to special interests over American workers to a new and shocking level. in the face of this outrageous threat”.
Democrats have considered using reconciliation, a special budget process, to pass parts of their agenda through the Senate 50-50 because it allows them to bypass filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority. It was anticipated that any new reconciliation package Democrats seek would include provisions designed to lower drug prices for many consumers.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., have been speaking on and off for months in an effort to craft a scaled-down version of the massive environmental and social measure Manchin scrapped in December.
As part of that campaign, Democrats are expected to present legislation lowering prescription drug costs to the House of Representatives in the coming days, according to an official familiar with the process.
The MP, Elizabeth MacDonough, must affirm that the provisions adhere to the rules of the Senate. That would allow Democrats to use special procedures that would allow them to pass legislation in the House 50-50 over unanimous Republican opposition.
Prescription drug provisions would be crucial to the bill because they could deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in savings by lowering federal costs.
Those savings would be used to pay for other initiatives related to climate, energy and possibly health care subsidies for people with low incomes. Schumer and Manchin have yet to agree on other possible parts of the bill, which Schumer expects the Senate to consider in late July.
The prescription drug provisions would allow Medicare to begin negotiating the prices of drugs it buys from manufacturers next year and increase federal subsidies for premiums and copays for some low-income people, according to a summary obtained by The Associated Press.
It would also limit Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 annually, payable in monthly installments; make it harder for pharmaceutical companies to raise prices by requiring them to provide rebates if the cost exceeds inflation and make vaccines free for Medicare beneficiaries, according to the scheme.
The now-defunct version of the legislation would have cost about $2 trillion over a decade and had passed the House. But Manchin, who had negotiated with party leaders for months and whose vote Democrats needed to pass, said abruptly that he opposed it, arguing it would have fueled inflation.
Some Democrats have expressed optimism that the effort can be revived. Others have expressed pessimism that a new election-year deal can be struck with West Virginia as the Senate calendar runs out.
“To his credit, Senator Schumer is much more optimistic than I am,” Senate Democratic Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois told reporters Thursday in Madrid, where Biden and lawmakers were attending a Senate summit. NATO. “So maybe before the end of the year, they’ll deliver this miracle bill, but I’m going to keep working around 60 votes.”
That was a reference to the 60 votes, including the support of at least 10 Republicans, that major legislation generally needs to pass the Senate.
The semiconductor legislation will need the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate, and possibly more, for the bill to reach Biden’s desk and become law. If McConnell retains his support, the task becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, as other Republican lawmakers follow his lead.
Supporters of the semiconductor legislation include the nation’s automakers and the nation’s largest technology companies. They have stepped up their lobbying in recent weeks with congressional leaders, saying provisions in the bill that boost investments in research, workforce development and domestic manufacturing are critical if the US wants to compete with other nations, particularly with China.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Madrid contributed to this report.
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