The following is a transcript of an interview with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that aired Sunday, July 24, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now want to turn to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Thank you for joining us.
COMMERCE SECRETARY GINA RAIMONDO: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you have been making this big push for this CHIPS bill that would direct about 50 billion towards the semiconductor industry, those are those computer chips in phones and dishwashers and weapons–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: And everything.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –and basically everything. The bill now also has about 200 billion in additional spending, which I understand you would play a role in helping to dole out in some way. For people at home, why should you as taxpayers subsidize a profitable industry?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, well, good morning, good to be with you. Because right now, we are dangerously dependent on other countries, mostly in Asia, for our supply of semiconductors. I think of it very similar to what you see in Europe, Germany now is highly dependent on Russia for oil. And we're all saying to ourselves, How could that happen? Well, that's what's gonna happen to us, if we don't stimulate more domestic production of CHIPS right now. We don't make any leading edge semiconductors in the United States. And those are the sophisticated chips that you need for military equipment and high-end computing. We buy almost all of them from Taiwan. It's really stunning. If you think about it, 90% we purchase from Taiwan. So the reality is, we need companies to expand in America, and- and other countries all around the world are providing incentives. Right? I wish- I wish you didn't have to do this, to be very honest, but France, Germany, Singapore, Japan, all of these other countries are providing incentives for CHIP companies to build there and we- frankly, we cannot afford that we cannot afford to be in this vulnerable position. We need to be able to protect ourselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Intel CEO said it's actually 30% cheaper for them to produce–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –in some of those other countries because of these incentives. But- but doesn't rolling out state subsidies of private industry create a dangerous precedent? Or are you arguing we're just in a scenario where we need to start thinking of vital industries, as partially state funded or subsidized?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, what I'm saying is, this is a matter of national security. And I don't think we can put a price tag on it, because we are in a very vulnerable spot. So if you talk to the military experts, or the national defense contractors, you know, they'll tell you they need CHIPS, there's 250 chips in a javelin launching system and that's not as sophisticated as some of the new equipment. Everything we talk about these precision guided mi- missiles and such. They're precision guided because of CHIPS, which are not made in America. They're made in Taiwan. So it's just in- a national security imperative. And by the way, we have to move quickly. That is the most critical point here–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said first week of August, this bill–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: This should happen next week. This is going to happen next week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There's a long list of things Congress needs to get done in a very short period of time–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I understand that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Are you confident that the votes are actually there to get this passed next week?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes, I am. I am. I- and I'll spend, you know, all weekend on the phone or the rest of the week on the phone. Yes, there was a big bipartisan vote in the Senate last week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: 16 Republicans voted–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: – to move along with this–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: 16 Republicans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –but this is still not done. And it's being tweaked here. So I want to ask you about some of the things that have been proposed, you have skeptics on both the right and the left for this, right? Bernie Sanders has said he doesn't like it, it's a blank check to profitable companies. Rick Scott a Florida Republican has compared it to corporate welfare, a former labor secretary from the Clinton Administration called pure extortion. That doesn't sound like this is truly bipartisan, as you called it. This sounds like this is fairly controversial.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Uh I- no, I don't think so. I mean, it's clearly bipartisan. You don't get 64 votes in the Senate every day–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But on this final bill, you think despite these detractors–
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: This will be a big–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –it's going to pass?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: –bipartisan vote in the House and the Senate. Yes, I believe so. You know, you see former Secretary Mike Pompeo today, tweeting out in favor of it you're gonna see Republicans and Democrats coming together because it's about national defense it's about jobs. This will create hundreds of 1000s of jobs in America. Now also, I fully dispute Senator Sanders' characterization of this. It isn't a blank check. There are many strings attached. Strings attached companies can't use this money to build facilities in other countries, companies who accept this money can't then turn around and be building facilities in China for leading edge technology. There's a lot of strings attached around you know the quality of jobs that have to be created working with small contractors and minority owned contractors there are labor protections. So to say it is a blank check is just dead wrong.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are those sufficient though because –
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes
MARGARET BRENNAN: –because you have Marco Rubio of Florida coming out and arguing high tech CHIP production should be further, sort of, restricted here on the national security portion. He says that corporations that received the funding cannot expand CHIP production in China, but there are some things grandfathered in that are loopholes here. I mean, are there other places you need to tighten up? Stricter export restrictions, for example?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, I don't think so. Let me say this. This bill has been heavily negotiated for months, the Senate passed its version a year ago. And so for a year, it's been negotiated. And that's why you see this big bipartisan vote, and you'll see it next week in the house. We–
MARGARET BRENNAN: It got slimmed down and then it's expanding again.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: It slimmed down, expanded, you know, the sausage making that always goes, the ups and the downs. We always have to be looking at our export controls. So I would say I feel very comfortable about this bill. It protects national security and protects taxpayers. Also–
MARGARET BRENNAN: As written.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: –as written. As written, there are- there are taxpayer protections, it'll be a competitive, transparent process. And there's clawback provisions. If we give the money to companies and they do what they're not supposed to, we're gonna take the money back. I feel very confident around the taxpayer protections and the China guardrails. Having said that, as we go forward as a country, not in this bill, we have to be on guard against China at all times.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For other industries as well?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Absolutely. For all technology, we have to do everything we can to make sure that our leading edge technology, whether it's in CHIPS, or artificial intelligence, or other areas, can't get into the hands of the Chinese.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're open to further export restrictions?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Generally?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes, generally. Exactly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On Taiwan, because, you know, embedded in this is the assumption that Taiwan is at risk, potentially of annexation by China.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that your prediction? How confident are you when you get briefed by US intelligence, that this is an immediate threat?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: We need to be prepared, you know, you- you'd be better served talking to national security adviser on the timeline and such and I don't think anyone thinks it's immediate–
MARGARET BRENNAN: 2027 I think is what General Milley said.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Exactly. I don't have a crystal ball. I feel confident in saying it's not immediate. And I feel also confident in saying there's no crystal ball. But we need to be prepared. That's our job to protect the American people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Should you- on another China related issue that impacts inflation, you have favored potentially lifting the tariffs off of some Chinese made products? Have you convinced the president yet?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: President still thinking about it. You know, this is a big decision–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why? This is one of the few things he actually has a tool to- to move on unilaterally that could help offset inflation.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: True, but you know, these are big decisions. There are potential labor implications. One thing about this President is he will never do anything that he thinks will hurt workers in America and- or hurt union workers in America. And so he's being appropriately deliberative to make sure that, yes, he wants to reduce inflation, and he wants to make it easier for consumers. But he wants to be certain that when we do it, or if we do it, it won't have any impact on American workers.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has inflation peaked?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Oh, you're asking all the crystal ball questions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you talk to business leaders I mean--
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: That- anyone who gives you a straight answer to that I'm not sure it's telling you the truth. I think probably. But look, if I had said that a year ago, you know, assuming another war doesn't break out, assuming we don't have another COVID, assume- you know, there is so much out of our control. What inflation is being- inflation is a global problem. Europe is struggling more than we are. It's been largely driven by things out of our control, you know, COVID-related supply chains, war in Ukraine. Here's what I'll say, gas prices are down, down steadily from a month ago. I think they'll be down further a month from now. Supply chain kinks are working their way out. So, I do think that we are on our way, but it's still high and Americans are still struggling.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you as well about climate. NOAA is under your purview. So I understand that that is in your wheelhouse. The climate agenda for the administration is completely stalled. You had the Supreme Court rein in some of the EPA abilities to act unilaterally here. You have the legislative agenda completely stalled right now, the electric vehicle tax credits, clean energy efforts. Is the fact that you've been unable to unstick that climate agenda but you've moved this far with CHIPS. Does it signal to you that you need to make private industry a partner in this? I mean, you had Intel lobbying with you on the CHIPS bill. Do you need business with you on climate to actually get it through?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: You know, it's very interesting. I would say yes, but because much of business is on board. Like, let's be honest with ourselves, climate related events are more frequent, more dangerous, and more expensive than they've ever been. Business gets that. But every time there's a storm or wildfire or climate event that costs business a lot of money, and their customers, and their communities. So do we need to do more to get business on board? Maybe. And it's, you know, something we are always wondering, how do we get things done in this divided political environment? But make no mistake about it, the climate investments that the President proposed are good for the economy and good for business, and business knows that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Joe Manchin is not convinced of that--
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: That, I understand.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That is stalled. So when we talk right now about all the intense heat, so many Americans and so many Europeans are experiencing, right now, it comes back to that question of what is driving it? NOAA, which, as we mentioned, you- you oversee, has said that climate change can intensify extreme heat, there was $3 billion in the infrastructure bill that was meant to help protect the infrastructure against some of these climate related changes. Why isn't that three billions efficient? And when will it actually be used?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, great questions. Right now, we are putting that money out the door, as we speak, quite literally. It is- although- although of course we're disappointed that we weren't able to get more through Congress, that $3 billion and the climate investments in the infrastructure package are some of the biggest climate investments we've ever made as a country. And so we have to use it well. Department of Energy, my Department, Department of Transportation, we're moving out, right now, investing in electric vehicle charging stations, battery technology. What we're doing at NOAA relates mostly to oceans and sea level rise, habitat restoration, resiliency, and coastal communities like Rhode Island where I'm from. So we are working hard to mitigate the effects of climate, again, with NOAA, especially for sea level rise and sea temperature rising. But $3 billion is a drop in the bucket. I mean, this is a global crisis. The reason is we- we need more, arguably, there's nothing more important for us to be working on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before you go, I want to ask you, on politics, there's a lot of speculation about your own political future. And do you think when you hear that- you must hear it- is that counterproductive for Democrats to be openly talking about anyone other than Joe Biden running in 2024?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes, I think it is. The President's a great president. He's doing a great job, he's going to run, and he's the man for the job. So I do think it's unproductive.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you and your political future? What is it?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Doing a great job of the Commerce Department.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there's speculation you could move to Treasury. There's speculation you could run for president.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I- you know, by this time next week, I'm going to have $52 billion of the Commerce Department to rebuild the semiconductor manufacturing industry, and that is going to keep me more than busy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much for coming in and talking to us today. We'll be right back.
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