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Biden champions Intel's plan for new semiconductor plants to help supply chain issues

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden wants more semiconductor chips stamped, made in the U.S.A. Intel agrees and says it will spend billions and billions of dollars to build facilities here in the U.S. to do just that. Will other chip makers follow? That's what the Biden administration so hopes, but it will need support from Congress.

With here with more, we're joined by NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks so much for being with us.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: First, let me ask, how many billions? Where? What are the details?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, Intel is making an initial $20 billion investment to develop and manufacture semiconductor chips at two plants in Ohio. They say it'll create 3,000 permanent jobs. But at a White House event yesterday with Biden, the CEO of Intel said that could actually grow up to $100 billion and become the largest chipmaking complex in the world if Congress passes stalled legislation to support the industry. Now, Scott, these chips are incredibly important. They're used for everything from cars to phones to toasters. And very few of them actually are made in the United States right now.

SIMON: And why is this announcement particularly important to the president?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, it's important to Biden because his administration is desperate to address the national shortage of semiconductors. You know, that's largely due to COVID. You know, it's really one of the most consequential industries that's been impacted by the supply chain problems. And it's really easy to see those results as prices have risen on most everything from cars to dishwashers. Here's actually Biden talking about some of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: During this pandemic, your pocketbook felt the consequences - inflation, higher prices. Whenever a factory shuts down in one part of the world, the production and shipments of goods to shops and homes and businesses all over the world gets disrupted.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, Biden wants to see similar facilities built around the country. He says the United States really needs to be less reliant on foreign suppliers, particularly China. Biden wants Congress to go ahead and pass the stalled legislation that would provide $52 billion to help boost U.S. production.

SIMON: And to be incredibly naive about it, are there political implications here?

ORDOÑEZ: Definitely. Biden's poll numbers are way down. He's had some big losses recently, particularly on his social spending and voting rights. And addressing the supply chain and rising inflation is something that a lot of Americans are concerned about. Here's Ian Russell, a Democratic strategist, talking about just that.

IAN RUSSELL: It's been a rough few months for the administration. It's important for Americans to see that the president is delivering for them, that we're not just stuck in legislative sausage-making and instead doing things that are going to have a real effect on Americans' jobs, economy and way of life.

ORDOÑEZ: And Russell emphasized that this could have big impacts farther down the supply chain that rely on semiconductors. And I'll also note that Republican Rob Portman was there on the stage with Biden, reflecting a little bit of bipartisanship here, though Portman is retiring.

SIMON: And yesterday's announcement of plants isn't going to solve supply chain issues today or tomorrow, is it?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, you're absolutely right. The reality is this investment, as large as it is, is years away from helping solve the semiconductor issue. Yesterday's event was in the White House, but the president said this week that he wants to travel more and meet with Americans. And this is the kind of issue that is likely to come up as he speaks to voters about what he's going to be doing as he kicks off Year 2 of his presidency, you know, to address their concerns about rising prices and empty grocery store shelves.

SIMON: NPR's White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez - Franco, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.