Shortly before heading out of town for a two-week home-district work period, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress named a whopping 107 members to a conference committee that will work out differences between the House and Senate versions of a competition and innovation bill that includes $52 billion in semiconductor funding, funding for a new tech directorate at the National Science Foundation, and big boosts in Federal research and development funding.

Altogether, the conference will consist of 26 senators – split evenly among Democrats and Republicans – and 81 representatives – with 50 Democrats and 31 Republicans. The conference members were announced April 7 by the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Today, we take another step toward sending to the President’s desk a bipartisan, bicameral package to lower costs at home, make more goods in America and turbocharge our competitiveness in the world,”  Pelosi said in her announcement.

“We need strong voices in this process who will put American interests above all else,” McCarthy said. “I am confident these members will never waver in their commitment to only advance legislation that will help our national security [and] protect our economic prosperity.”

The announcement of conference leadership brings Congress one step closer to passing legislation that aims to ramp up domestic semiconductor production, spur competition, and drive innovation. The conference will look to reconcile differences between the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the House-passed America Creating Opportunities, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act (COMPETES).

To bring the bill to conference, the Senate recently swapped the text of America COMPETES with that of its own USICA bill and passed the legislation. The House officially requested a conference March 30.

“The Senate is moving an important step closer to delivering a robust jobs and competitiveness bill that will help fix our supply chains and boost American innovation and technological dominance for generations,” Schumer said. “Our Democratic conferees will ensure that the Senate-passed bill stays on track to create more good-paying jobs, boost domestic manufacturing, and spark American ingenuity that will be the engine that drives our economy forward for years to come.”

McConnell said that he expects “major changes and concessions” from House Democrats for the final bill to have a chance of becoming law.

“Last year, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to help America better compete on issues from critical supply chains to counterespionage to intellectual property,” McConnell said in his announcement. ““The Senate must now restore a product that reflects what passed this chamber with bipartisan support. This process will begin with multiple motions to instruct conferees.”

Industry Group Calls for Swift Agreement

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) trade group is calling for the conference to reach a swift agreement and send the bill to President Biden’s ’s desk.

“This legislation would strengthen U.S. technological leadership and fortify the U.S. economy by increasing manufacturing in America, strengthening supply chains, and addressing bottlenecks in key areas like semiconductors,” ITIC President and CEO Jason Oxman said in a press release.

“Enhancing U.S. competitiveness will benefit all Americans, and we urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to seize this historic opportunity and reach a bicameral agreement on the competitiveness bills, … send it to the president’s desk, and make clear the U.S. will use its technological prowess to compete for generations to come.”

What’s Next?

Congress will have a state work period until April 25, after which Schumer said he expects to pass the innovation bill “very soon.” However, no timetable for an agreement or subsequent consideration of the legislation has been announced.

“As the House and Senate begin the conferencing process, Senate conferees will push for swift, good-faith negotiations on behalf of the American people and look forward to passing the final bill very soon,” Schumer said.

Who Was Chosen?

The following senators were chosen for the conference: Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; John Tester, D-Mont.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V.; Tammy Baldwin, D- Wis.; Pat Toomey, R-Penn.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; John Barrasso, R-Wy.; Martin Kelly, D-Ariz.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; and Todd Young, R-Ind.

On the House side, the breakdown of members is as follows:

  • Seven Democrats and five Republicans from the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, including Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla.;
  • Seven Democrats and five Republicans from the Energy and Commerce Committee, including Chair Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.;
  • Seven Democrats and five Republicans from the Foreign Affairs Committee, including Chair Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Ranking Member Michael McCaul, Texas;
  • Seven Democrats and five Republicans from the Ways and Means Committee, including Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Kevin Brady, R-Texas;
  • Agriculture Chair David Scott, D-Ga., Ranking Member Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., and Chellie Pingree, D-Maine;
  • Donald Norcross, D-N.J., Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and Blake Moore, R-Utah, from the Armed Services Committee;
  • Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott, D-Va., Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Joe Morelle, D-N.Y.;
  • Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas;
  • Dina Titus, D-Nev., Michael Guest, R-Miss., and Val Demings, D-Fla., from the Homeland Security Committee;
  • Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., along with Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., and Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn.;
  • Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., along with Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., and Donald McEachin, D-Va.;
  • House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif.;
  • Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., and Sharice Davids, R-Kan.;
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.; and
  • Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano, D-Calif., Ranking Member Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Chris Pappas, D-N.H.
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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.