Photo of Holly Fechner

Holly Fechner has two decades of legal, legislative and public policy experience in the public and private sectors.  Ms. Fechner has a broad-based practice handling legislative and regulatory matters for clients in areas including healthcare, tax, intellectual property, education, and employee benefits.  Drawing on her extensive congressional and private sector experience, Ms. Fechner offers clients comprehensive advocacy services, including strategic advice, substantive legal and regulatory expertise, and policy and message development.  She has a proven track record in assisting clients fulfill their government affairs goals.

Congress launched the Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation last week with a four-hour meeting featuring remarks by nearly one-hundred committee chairs and members from both chambers of Congress. Chaired by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Conference Committee’s objective is to reconcile differences between the United States Innovation and Competition Act (“USICA”), which passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68–32 in June 2021, and the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (“America COMPETES Act”), which passed the House by a partisan vote of 222–210 in February 2022.

The kick-off meeting suggested that this objective is attainable, but by no means guaranteed.

On display was broad consensus that the United States is not doing enough to spur innovation and remain competitive around the world, and that legislation is needed in support of those goals.  Chair Cantwell opened the conference by recognizing that this is a “historic day” with a supply chain crisis and that this is a “Sputnik moment.”  A bicameral and bipartisan chorus, including Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS), House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-TX), and House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) echoed her optimism and urgency.

Members also generally agreed on several key components in the bills.  Members of both chambers and both sides of the aisle recognized the importance of anchoring supply chains of critical products including semiconductors and pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.  A bipartisan group expressed support for the $52 billion in funding for semiconductor incentives that is included in both the USICA and America COMPETES Act.  Several Democrats and Republicans also noted that they are working together on an additional tax provision, which is currently not in either bill, to encourage semiconductor design and manufacturing in the United States.  Members also agreed on the need to push back against anti-competitive conduct by China such as cyberattacks and intellectual property theft, and to invest in science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education to expand and improve the U.S. workforce.

Continue Reading Congress Kick Offs Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation

Last month, the US-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) held its inaugural ministerial in Pittsburgh: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with European Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis. Only three months after the TTC process was launched at the US-EU summit, the two sides

Three summits last week—G-7, NATO, and U.S.-EU—launched a wide range of transatlantic initiatives to coordinate policy, particularly on trade, technology, and defense. These new formats and dialogues can ensure a much deeper level of regulatory cooperation between the United States and Europe by exchanging perspectives, briefing materials, and in some cases, staff. For companies on both sides of the Atlantic, these emerging policy trends also open up new opportunities to engage decision-makers both in Washington and European capitals.
Continue Reading Transatlantic Summits: Main Takeaways for Tech and Defense

The Senate voted 68 to 32 to pass one of the most expansive bills on U.S. economic competitiveness in decades.  The United States Innovation and Competition Act (“USICA”) is the culmination of three months of bipartisan negotiations after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) invited six Senate committees to propose bills to bolster U.S. leadership in research and development (“R&D”), technological advancement, and economic growth.  Before the vote, Leader Schumer remarked that “the ambitions of this legislation are large, but the premise is simple.  If we want American workers and American companies to keep leading the world, the federal government must invest in science, basic research, and innovation just as we did decades after the Second World War.”  He applauded the bill for “paving the way for the largest investment in science and technology in generations.”

The convincing bipartisan vote to authorize over $200 billion in federal funding reflects broad  support for investing in U.S. innovation and competition.  The heart of the bill is the Endless Frontier Act authorizing $81 billion to the National Science Foundation (“NSF”) and $17 billion to the Department of Energy (“DOE”) to support R&D across ten key technologies, including artificial intelligence, advanced communications technology, biotechnology, and semiconductors.  The bill also includes institutional support, including establishing a new technology and innovation arm at the NSF and hundreds of provisions recognizing the Federal Government’s role in innovation and competition, including support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) education; protecting research security and intellectual property rights; and competing globally, including against China.  Against the backdrop of a global chips shortage, the bill appropriates $52 billion in emergency funding to support semiconductor manufacturing and R&D and $1.5 billion to support open and interoperable interface radio access networks (“open-RAN”) enabling more secure deployment of 5G.

The bill’s provisions are organized across six divisions:

Division A funds two programs that were enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act last year.  First, the division appropriates $52 billion to fund programs authorized by the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act (“CHIPS Act”), including financial assistance for companies to invest in facilities and equipment for semiconductor manufacturing and R&D, a Department of Defense public-private partnership to ensure a robust semiconductor supply chain, and a Department of Commerce (“DOC”) study on the capabilities of the U.S. industrial base to support semiconductor needs.   Second, the division appropriates $1.5 billion to a Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, authorized by the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act (“USA Telecommunications Act”), to award grants for companies to research, develop, and deploy 5G and next-generation technology that uses open-RAN.
Continue Reading Senate Passes Landmark Legislation on Innovation and Competition

 On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up and passed what Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called a “tremendous breakthrough” and the most significant research and development (“R&D”) legislation in over a decade.  The bill, the Endless Frontier Act, originally introduced by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN),

Congress is setting the stage for consideration of the most extensive legislation on technological leadership, innovation, and global competitiveness in decades.  Prompted by a global pandemic that has underscored the critical importance of technology, a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, and competitive tensions with China, members of Congress are developing a wide-ranging, bipartisan package with both

After several weeks of negotiations proceeding in fits and starts, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a power-sharing agreement governing the operation of the evenly divided Senate.  As expected, the deal, which passed by voice vote, largely conforms to the agreement in place when the Senate was last evenly

The nullification of recent Trump Administration regulations is yet another item on the busy agenda for congressional Democrats in the 117th Congress.  With Democrats holding both the presidency and narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress, some Democrats have advocated using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal Trump-era rules finalized after August 21,

Technology policy is a growing issue for the Congress, especially since it is to the economy and to our national security what oil was 20 years. Congress has a love-hate relationship with tech: love them for their innovation, jobs, and international competitiveness, and hate them for their size, bias and perceived hubris.

Enter antitrust: a