Mitch McConnell says he'll kill the bipartisan China bill if Democrats revive their agenda with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema

·3-min read
Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Mitch McConnell vowed to effectively kill major bipartisan legislation if Democrats pursue their own plan.

  • McConnell's statement is a major and perhaps fatal setback for a lengthy effort to pass a China bill.

  • Lawmakers on both sides have moved to bulk up the US semiconductor industry, which is a major part of the plan.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on Thursday that he would block the progress of President Joe Biden's major bipartisan semiconductor bill aimed at thwarting China if Democrats continue to pursue a separate economic plan crafted from the ashes of Build Back Better.

"Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill," McConnell tweeted.

In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office blasted McConnell as a tool of the "Chinese Communist Party."

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"Make no mistake: Senator McConnell is now siding with the Chinese Communist Party against American workers and American industry," Pelosi spokesperson Henry Connelly wrote on Twitter. "And why? So that the GOP's pals in Big Pharma can keep ripping off Americans struggling to afford their prescriptions."

McConnell's statement all but spells the death knell for bipartisan talks that have dragged on throughout the year as both chambers crafted their own sweeping plans aimed at reinvigorating America's supply chain amid China's rise. It comes as Democrats inch closer to striking a deal at reviving their stalled party-line climate and healthcare bill.

Democratic and Republican leaders continuously feuded over the China bill's scope in negotiations this year. Republicans pressed Democrats to ditch provisions dealing with trade, labor, and immigration to keep it smaller. A chunk of the bill set aside $52 billion to shore up the US semiconductor industry during a chip shortage, a key Democratic priority.

Centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are key votes on Biden's stalled economic agenda. All 50 Senate Democrats must band together to advance the smaller spending bill with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Spokespeople for Manchin and Sinema didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden and the White House have repeatedly made clear that passing the China bill is a major priority. The legislation, the USICA or United States Innovation and Competition Act, is at times just called the China bill. It is so massive that it has sparked a reputation for all of the various special-interest driven provisions that have found their way into the text.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has repeatedly warned that failing to pass the legislation could have devastating consequences. Raimondo said on CNBC on Monday that GlobalWafers might not follow through on its plans to build a $5 billion factory in Texas if the bill fails.

"It has to be done before they go to August recess," said Raimondo, who has been closely involved in the talks. "I don't know how to say it any more plainly. This deal … will go away, I think, if Congress doesn't act."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer authored the Senate's version of the bill, a sign of just how serious leadership is in passing it. Biden also pushed it during his State of the Union address in March. The Senate passed its $250 billion package last June. The House advanced its own plan in February. Both sides have been trying to sort out the details for months.

"To compete for the best jobs of the future, we also need to level the playing field with China and other competitors," Biden said during his address. "That's why it is so important to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing."

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