EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Rick Scott took the White House and fellow Republicans to task Thursday for proposing to give billions in taxpayer money to profitable high-tech companies as part of President Biden’s plan to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry.
Scott, a member of the GOP Senate leadership, told Fox News Digital the $252 billion legislation being negotiated was not only likely to exacerbate inflation, but amounted to little more than a giveaway to big business.
"If we're going to invest dollars, we ought to get a return," said Scott, R-Fla. "There's no return for the American taxpayer in this legislation, except maybe in regards to making inflation worse."
The semiconductor bill, which is billed as a means to counter China’s dominance in cyber technology and computer chips, initially had a price tag of $52 billion. In recent days, the bill has swelled to include an additional $200 billion for research and development.
Scott said there were few guardrails in place to ensure that companies getting the money actually needed it to produce computer chips. The Florida Republican also argued there were no specifications for what companies needed to produce after getting billions in taxpayer money.
"A company like Intel — which made $20 billion last year, and their CEO made $180 million — [they’re] going to get $3 (billion) to $4 billion to build something, but we don’t specify exactly what it is," said Scott. "There’s no obligation for them to build the technology we need, but they get the money and a tax credit anyway."
The semiconductor bill has been a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer initially secured passage of a broader measure last year to combat Chinese dominance. That bill died after the House and Senate failed to forge a compromise and Republicans voiced opposition.
Instead, Democrats stripped out the most popular sections and put them in a stand-alone bill. That measure cleared a procedural vote in the Senate this week with 16 Republicans voting in favor.
Scott said the process used to craft the bill was flawed because Democratic leaders opted to skirt the committee process and put the legislation directly on the floor.
"Moves like this show why this country is saddled with $30 trillion in debt," the senator said.
Proponents of the bill have long argued that it will boost America’s competitive advantage against China when it comes to computer chips and other prime technology. The White House, in particular, has moved to frame the bill as a boon for national security.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has pushed hard for the passage of the bill. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said recently that the issue was a "grave national security threat" since military equipment relies on computer chips manufactured abroad.
"This is a core national security imperative. Right now, as I said before, we buy all of these chips of a certain kind from Taiwan," Raimondo recently told PBS News Hour. "We don't make this stuff in America. And yet it is what we need in military equipment, in pacemakers in the hospital, in cars."
Scott contended that the legislation did nothing to prohibit chip manufacturers from continuing to do business in China.
"They say this is an anti-China measure, but I can’t find that anywhere in the bill," he said.