Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke at the Business Roundtable Quarterly Meeting to discuss the historic accomplishments of the Senate Democrats this Congress, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, and the role businesses need to play in accomplishing our shared climate and economic goals. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
This has been a historic string of lawmaking by the Senate.
In the middle of an election season, in the midst of a 50-50 Senate, I’m proud that the 117th Congress has passed more pieces of significant legislation than we’ve seen in a very long time.
In the last ten months we have passed the following bills, many with bipartisan cooperation: Passed the first major infrastructure bill in at least a decade. Passed the first gun safety law since the Brady Bill three decades ago (which I was proud to author as a member of the House). Secured the largest veterans’ health care expansion in a generation. Overhauled our severely underfunded postal service. And, finally, we passed both the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act into law, which I want to talk more in depth with you today.
I promise that’s the most gloating I will do this morning, and I do so to make a specific point: with the right people in office – and under the right circumstances – Congress is still capable of passing big picture legislation. And you can still rely on us to capably respond to the needs of the country and our economy.
Regardless of current trends, I believe America faces two issues that we need to address in the years ahead: the existential threat of climate change, and the need to preserve America’s competitive edge against rising adversaries like the CCP.
It might seem as if these issues share little in common, but I argue they both require similar solutions. Both issues compel us, as a country, to renew our commitment to investing right here at home, specifically in our infrastructure, in manufacturing, in new technologies, and in American workers. Both will require the private sector and the government to work together, much as we have over the past few years to beat COVID and recover as a nation. Both are existential threats in different senses: climate change literally imperils our planet and the wellbeing of ourselves and future generations, while the rise of the CCP imperils the democratic world order that the United States has worked hard to preserve since the end of the second world war.
The policies that Congress has enacted through both the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act are meant to address both issues head on.
Let me start with CHIPS. Anyone who has heard me talk at these meetings knows I have long sounded the alarm about the need to head off the disturbing rise of the Chinese Communist Party.
For decades, China has effectively cheated and stolen its way to economic growth: engaging in brazen theft of American intellectual property via cyber operations and forced technology transfers, and they have pursued policies that dump cheap goods into the global economy, undermining American manufacturers.
The consequences have been severe: trillions in lost wealth, millions in lost jobs, the loss of American manufacturing, and a playing field that puts American workers at a serious disadvantage.
More recently, China has directed its energy, and mercantilist policies, towards beating the United States and likeminded countries to dominate the technologies of the 21st Century, especially microchips.
When it comes to dominating the global semiconductor industry, the race between our countries is as fierce and as high stakes as it gets.
As you all know, we still lead the world in designing the most advanced chips in the world, but we’re woefully behind on manufacturing. Only 12% of the world's chips are currently made in the US, while China produced nearly a quarter and rising.
And of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is what will they do in regards to Taiwan – one of the top producers of advanced microchips.
Should China step in for some reason and integrate the island into their economy, they will likely dominate the semiconductor industry for a very long time. This gives them significant leverage and would be a major threat to our national security.
This asymmetry will have profound consequences for the planet. Technology firms currently make up a quarter—a quarter—of the global stock market.
Whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to be the global economic leader, with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security as well.
The CHIPS and Science Act, therefore, is a major step forward in starting to re-balance this asymmetry. CHIPS and Science is the largest down payment in a long time on the one thing that has set America apart for a century: science and manufacturing. Our bill will provide tens of billions to strengthen domestic supply chains and cultivate new tech hubs across the country, in regions that have long been overlooked. It also invests billions into a new technology directorate at the National Science Foundation, tasked with keeping the U.S. on the cutting-edge of technologies like AI, quantum computing, battery storage, and biotechnology.
The CHIPS and Science Bill also offers $52 billion to rebuild America’s semiconductor industry – one of the largest investments in a single strategic industry in modern times. These funds are meant to help fix our supply chains, incentivize the construction, expansion, or modernization of semiconductor fabs here in the US. The Microchip is an American original; it’s time we lead the world in making them once again and we want to make that a cheaper option.
This pandemic showed just how vulnerable our supply chains are. You all have felt it. CHIPS and Science is about making a major down-payment on bringing manufacturing back to America and making sure the U.S. builds the industries of the future.
For the first time in US history, the federal government now has a strategy in place—anchored on the legislation we passed in Congress—to address the threat of climate change.
One of the most difficult perceptions we must break is the notion that fighting climate change involves a trade-off between the health of our planet and the health of our economy.
But the Inflation Reduction Act turns that outdated and defeatist paradigm on its head.
Rather than focus on penalties and overregulating the private sector, our new law is more or less one giant carrot (instead of a stick). Or, more precisely, it’s a whole wheelbarrow of hundreds of smaller carrots, each tailored to different companies’ needs and strategies and workforces, and each designed to enhance the impact of the other incentives.
If we follow through on maximizing all the good
things offered by the Inflation Reduction Act, here’s where I think America
will be in ten years: We’ll be a nation with a significantly stronger
manufacturing sector, especially the manufacturing of EVs, batteries, solar
panels, wind turbines, and all renewable energy technologies. As many as 9
million additional people will be employed in industries projected to grow over
the course this century due to the incentives we have put in place.
Importantly, we will be on the path to reaching our goal of reducing America’s
Bottom line, ten years from now, I predict that we will see country in the upswing of a green industrial revolution: where clean power runs clean factories operated by millions of newly hired, well paid workers.
Just because these laws have passed does not mean our work is done. This is where you come in. We need your companies to utilize these new incentives, to maximize their benefits.
I know—and respect—the fact that not all of us will agree on everything with regards to these bills.
But I hope I’ve made the case that the two laws I’ve talked about today—the IRA and the CHIPS and Science Act—represent serious efforts by Congress to tackle some of the gravest problems that face America in the long term.
But even the best bills passed by Congress don’t spring into action on their own.
Legislation needs to be applied, and applied correctly. Obviously, that’s one of the main responsibilities of any functioning government.
But on these issues—on climate change and on combatting the CCP—all of us have to do our part. First, now that the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science bill are law, we will rely on all of you to inform us on how we can maximize the investments we’ve made. The more feedback we hear from you, the better that agencies like the Treasury Department can apply these laws as effectively as possible. They’re working as we speak issuing guidance on how to secure federal investment.
Second, I challenge all of you to make the decision to invest here in America. This is the opportunity to bring back home manufacturing and to work with suppliers who commit to the U.S. For the sake of our country, Choose to bring jobs home to America rather than offshore them. Choose, also, to invest in workers, from all walks of life. We know there is a need for more workers. Today’s labor shortage can in part be addressed by you investing more in better pay and stronger benefits, and more opportunities for worker training programs that will lead to building fulfilling, stable careers.
And we must invest in corners of the country that have often been overlooked as economic hubs. This is a chance to rebuild industrial areas of the past like Upstate NY, the Heartland, rural regions and distressed urban neighborhoods.
The tax breaks and grants and other incentives we’re offering through our legislation are designed to make it easier for your companies to make these goals a reality.
Too many dismiss the relationship between government and business as fundamentally adversarial. But history is full of examples to the contrary, so let me close by sharing one:
A little over a hundred years ago, the US crossed a point of no return when Americans started doing something new: they started driving cars, lots of cars.
We all know the story: after the Model T was rolled out, Americans discovered this new automobile was very reliable, and better yet affordable. By 1914, Ford Motor Company was selling over 200,000 Model Ts a year. It was a moment that truly merits the label “revolution.”
But this surge in sales exposed an underappreciated problem, one few of us think about regularly today: there were literally not enough paved roads in the country to support this traffic!
Some business leaders tried to pave America on their own, through the private sector, but that was largely a flop because replacing cobblestones with asphalt was too expensive.
To us, this seems like an obvious and severe public issue, but to Henry Ford it was mostly a business problem, one that put a ceiling on his company’s sales.
So what did he do? Henry Ford approached governments at the local and federal as a partner. He raised publicity on the needs for roads.
He recognized that the government could help his business by making public investments that made owning a car more sensible.
Many people were skeptical. Some asked “why bother pushing to pave roads when horses can do the trick when it’s muddy?”
In response, he once supposedly quipped, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
In a world that was still influenced by 19th century thinking, Henry Ford knew that the 20th century called for new ideas and new approaches. And in this instance, he recognized that government investments could help his business.
And it was a virtuous cycle: more Model T sales led to larger gas tax revenues, which enabled the government to invest that money to paving more roads, which helped generate more auto sales and other businesses, and on and on.
I believe something very similar could be happening to our country today.
Just as the Model T helped drive a century of growth, we see the EVs and other renewables as having similar impact for our country in the future.
And just as the federal government did its part to give Ford and other automakers the tools to succeed—while also providing benefits for the public good—I believe the government can have the same impact now.
Nobody can say with certainty what the world will look like ten years from now, but it’s a safe bet that climate change and China will be a major part of the picture.
So, if we want the next hundred years to bring the same profits, prosperity, and innovations we saw in the last hundred, all of us will have to work together.
All of you have called on Congress to get serious on climate change. We did so. You pushed us to address the chips crisis and take steps to shore up US manufacturing. We did that too.
Now, in many ways the floor is yours. The resources and means to address these issues are now available, ready to be seized.
So I urge you: seize this moment and help us launch our country fully into the 21st century. And we will work with you every step of the way.