A pair of Senate votes late on March 28 has cleared the way for a House-Senate conference committee to work out remaining differences on semiconductor and innovation legislation that will combine the House-passed America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act and Senate-approved United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

The two votes in the Senate – both tallied at 68-28 for approval – amended the COMPETES Act to replace its language with the text of the USICA bill, and then approved the underlying bill.

The next step in the legislative process is for the House to call for the conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the COMPETES Act bills.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hopes that the conference committee process can begin by next week.

“There are three important reasons for passing the bill: it’ll create more American jobs, it will lower costs for American families, it will help ignite another generation of American scientific research and innovation,” Sen. Schumer said.

The COMPETES Act includes $52 billion to fund the CHIPS for America Act that aims to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing – a major element in the Biden administration’s broad campaign to improve U.S. competitiveness against China.  The bills also would create a new technology-focused directorate at the National Science Foundation.

The two versions of the bill also feature numerous cybersecurity provisions including:

  • The Cybersecurity Opportunity Act to fund cyber education grants at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions;
  • Language to create rotational learning opportunities for Federal government cybersecurity employees;
  • Expansion of the CyberCorps program;
  • Creation of Critical Technology Security Centers;
  • Investments in regional technology hubs; and
  • Creation of a National Risk Management Cycle to deter threats to U.S. critical infrastructure.
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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.