Congress approves bill to boost US production of computer chips; Sullivan votes no.

moonrise over Capitol, with dome to the left and purple sky.
Moonrise over the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 18, 2021. (Brett Davis)

Congress on Thursday passed a $280 billion bill to subsidize domestic production of computer chips and invest in science and technology innovation.

Alaska’s sole vote on the bill was U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s. He voted no. His office said he didn’t have time this week for an interview on the subject.

Computer chips are used in everything from cell phones and cars to airplanes and weapons systems. 

In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Sullivan said the bill discriminates against Alaska Native corporations. The 1,054-page semiconductor bill describes roles for tribal governments and tribal colleges. It doesn’t specifically mention Alaska Native corporations.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was absent for the vote. She tested positive for COVID recently and was isolating in Alaska this week. She issued a statement saying she would have voted yes.

“This legislation is timely and critical to addressing one of the greatest supply chain issues we’ve seen throughout the COVID pandemic,” her statement says. “By providing incentives and investments to increase domestic protection, we are taking necessary steps to boost U.S. economic growth, prevent future supply shocks and price increases, and protect national security.”

The vote in the Senate was 64-33.

In the House, the bill also passed with bipartisan support. Alaska hasn’t had a representative there since the death of Congressman Don Young in March.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.