WASHINGTON, D.C. — A lack of computer chips is continuing to impact supply chains and people’s pocketbooks.

However, Congress may be on the verge of a big breakthrough. Democrats and Republicans have come together to try and pass a massive bill by the end of the summer.

WHAT’S THE BILL?

The bill is officially called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.

The House and Senate have passed their own version of the legislation, which funds science research, innovation and manufacturing.

On Thursday, the first of several conference committee hearings occurred regarding the bill.

What’s the significance?

A conference committee is when the House and the Senate come together to try and solve their differences and produce one bill that can quickly become law.

It’s a process that is only used when lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, are serious about passing something.

More than 100 members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are on the committee. They are asking questions like, “Is $52 billion the right amount of money to help the chip industry?”

That’s the amount included in the CHIPS Act, which passed the Senate last year but has yet to become law on its own.

However, this bill is about more than just computer chips.

It’s very much about competing with China and investing in science and supply chains long-term.

“This is a rare opportunity to reinvigorate our economy,” Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-CO, said at the start of the hearing.

“The competition we are having with China is unlike any we have experienced,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said.

However, because it’s such a big bill the little details really do matter.

Controversial amendments involving climate change or unions could possibly upend the entire legislation.

The president, though, wants the bill on his desk by the end of summer. Struggling in the polls, the White House wants another bipartisan victory.

President Biden, during a recent visit to Ohio, said, “Pass the damn bill,” while discussing the legislation and the time lawmakers are taking on it.

HOW BAD HAS IT BECOME?

Computer chips are often referred to as semiconductors, which are often defined by the industry as “the brains of modern electronics.”

How bad has the chip shortage become?

A recent report by the Commerce Department said there was fewer than a five-day supply on some days for businesses who need them.

Previously, prior to the pandemic, a 40-day supply was common.

In fact, many manufacturing plants, especially those that build new cars, have faced major production delays as a result over the last year or so.

It’s one reason car prices have become so high.

No chips, in most cases, mean no new cars since so much technology is now included as standard equipment in new vehicles.