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A bipartisan group of Michigan members of Congress on Thursday again urged U.S. House and Senate leaders to make sure that funding for semiconductor research and production — vital to the state's automakers — be approved as part of legislation that may soon become the focus of final negotiations.
One letter, which was led by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and signed by eight other members of Michigan's 14-member House delegation, specifically asked Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers to make sure at least $2 billion is set aside for the sort of semiconductor chips used by the automotive industry.
Another letter, signed by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Michigan, carried the same message, asking that funding dedicated exclusively to increasing production of so-called "mature" semiconductors used in autos be included.
A semiconductor shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt automakers and other manufacturers. With most semiconductors being shipped in from Asia, Congress last year passed a measure that would invest in research and production in the U.S. to prevent future shortages.
While funding for that measure was included in a competition bill passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this year, the House hasn't acted on it. The letters sent Tuesday indicated that the House and Senate are preparing to appoint a committee to work out differences between the two chambers over the Senate bill, which could lead to final passage of the funding.
"It is imperative we act before the end of the year," said the House letter, which followed up on an earlier one also demanding action. It went on to say, "It is clear, across political parties, that this is a bipartisan issue we must face together. From decisionmakers to original equipment manufacturers, suppliers, labor, and education and workforce development stakeholders ... the consequences for the automotive industry as a whole — and the nation — if we fail... could be dire."
In the Senate letter, Stabenow and Peters said, "The global semiconductor shortage has impacted a number of sectors in our nation’s economy, with the automotive industry being the hardest hit. In the first three quarters of 2021 alone, automakers in North America lost an estimated 2.2 million vehicles from planned production."
For months, there has been an effort to advance the funding but the House has been slow to move in part because it was mired in passing President Joe Biden's infrastructure and social spending bills. There were also concerns, however, that the Senate competition bill didn't include climate change measures that other members of the House were demanding.
This week, Dingell and other members hosted a roundtable discussion in southeast Michigan with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who also spoke to the Detroit Economic Club and said it is vital for the House to approve the $52 billion in semiconductor funding passed by the Senate.
Also signing the House letter were U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield; Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township; Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids; Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly; Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills; Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan legislators again urge semiconductor funding