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COMPETES Bill Passed in the House

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Last Friday, on a third try, the House of Representatives passed with a 262-150 vote the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5116), ending a heavy House debate over concerns about the fiscal challenges that the act represents.

The act, aiming to support U.S. competitiveness through advancement in science and technology, proposes $85.6 billion in spending in three main areas. One area consists of doubling authorized funding levels over ten years for research programs at the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs. The second area addresses improvements needed in education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from elementary through graduate school. Third, the act envisions federal programs to help foster innovation in new technologies by, for example, reauthorizing the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Energy Innovation Hubs.

The reauthorization bill was introduced on April 22 and was passed by the House Committee on Science and Technology on 28 April. When brought to the full House for a vote in early May, it was stymied twice (see our previous posts). The first time, House leaders decided to pull the bill after a GOP-sponsored motion to recommit passed on May 13. This would have only authorized the bill’s programs for three years instead of five and would have cut certain new programs proposed in the bill. A second attempt to pass the bill failed when it was brought to a vote under the House’s suspension process, which requires two-thirds support for passage. Last Friday’s vote required only a simple majority for passage. Members first casted their votes on nine portions of the motion to recommit and only two of the nine provisions were adopted.

The bill’s more than 750 endorsers include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Council on Competitiveness, the Association of American Universities, the National Venture Capital Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Chemical Society, and nearly 100 universities and colleges.
We can expect more politics around sound innovation policy in the Senate. Stay tuned for more on the next chapter for COMPETES.

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