McConnell threatens to pull GOP support from semiconductor bill, White House weighs in

The longtime GOP leader threatened to pull GOP support over a potential reconciliation maneuver by Democrats.
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Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2016
Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2016
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A partisan fight has broken out over a a bipartisan legislative effort aimed at expanding the American semiconductor industry, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to pull Republican support for the bill should Democrats move ahead with a separate reconciliation package.

The longtime congressional leader tweeted on Thursday, "Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill." USICA, or the United States Innovation and Competition Act, is the Senate-passed version of the semiconductor bill.

Hours later, the White House responded to McConnell, accusing him of "holding hostage" a bill designed to make the country more competitive against China by investing about $50 billion into the domestic the chip industry. The White House has said that the bill is a top agenda item, arguing that it will be a way to both make the U.S. more competitive against China and ease the supply chain crisis by investing in a U.S. industry.

A version of the bill passed the Senate more than a year ago and the House passed its own version earlier this year. Bipartisan negotiations over the legislation have been taking place for the last several weeks. 

McConnell's comment comes on the heels of news that Senate Democrats may attempt to submit a revised proposal of legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices to the Senate parliamentarian in an effort to pass the bill via budget reconciliation – a method for which Democrats would need zero Republican support. 

If the bipartisan bill is tanked, Senate Democrats could also theoretically include the semiconductor legislation in a broader reconciliation package. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to McConnell's threat, "Senate Republicans are literally choosing to help China out compete the U.S. in order to protect big drug companies. This takes loyalty to special interests over working Americans to a new and shocking height.  We are not going to back down in the face of this outrageous threat."