U.S. Senate moves to launch formal talks on massive China competition bill

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund in Shanghai

By Patricia Zengerle and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate on Wednesday moved to begin formal legislative talks on a long-stalled bill to pay for $52 billion in semiconductor chips manufacturing subsidies and boost U.S. competitiveness with China.

The Senate completed votes on more than two dozen motions addressing a range of issues, including Iran policy. Although the motions are not binding, they convey a sense of what senators would like to see in the final bill and what could keep it from getting enough votes to become law.

House and Senate lawmakers will now begin formal negotiations through a process known as a conference committee to hammer out a bill that can pass both chambers. Talks could last for months, congressional aides say.

With Democrats narrowly controlling the House of Representatives and Senate, Republicans used some motions to weigh in on President Joe Biden's efforts to return to the international nuclear deal with Iran and winning approval with support from some Democrats.

Republicans unanimously opposed the 2015 nuclear deal.

Late Wednesday, the Senate completed action on more than two dozen "Motions to Instruct."

Senators voted 78 to 17 against a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders that sought to delete language that would authorize the $10 billion development of a new lunar lander for NASA, a move seen as part of the senator's effort to nix federal funds that could go to billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

Senators voted 62-33 in favor of another motion that seeks to bar the Biden administration from lifting the terrorist designation for Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, an obstacle to reviving the nuclear pact.

The Senate also voted 86-12 on a motion arguing terrorism-related sanctions on Iran are necessary to limit cooperation between China and Iran.

Such provisions could complicate delicate negotiations on the nuclear deal, although western officials have largely lost hope that the pact can be resurrected after then-Republican President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018.

They also could make it more difficult to pass the chips and China competition bill, which has been working its way through Congress for nearly a year.

Another Republican-sponsored motion was approved on a 49-47 vote that would seek language to bar President Joe Biden from using climate change to declare an emergency to expand executive branch powers.

The Senate first passed a version of the semiconductor chips and China competition bill in June, with strong bipartisan support. That $250 billion bill was hailed as potentially the most significant government intervention in manufacturing in decades, but stalled in the House.

The House passed a version in February 2022 that had $52 billion in chips funding but significant differences on other provisions.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by David Shepardson; editing by David Gregorio and Gerry Doyle)

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