Today, the U.S. House of Representatives failed in its second attempt to pass the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, a flagship bill for U.S. competitiveness containing broad support for science and technology innovation, including funding authorization for energy innovation and education programs.
The bill, which was re-introduced on the floor again today after getting derailed last week, was blocked by a minority of House Republican members despite the uncontroversial and bipartisan nature of the legislation. It was brought forward for a vote under the House’s suspension process, which forbids further amendments but requires a two-thirds majority, which the bill failed to meet on a vote of 261-148 (full breakdown available here).
The second failure comes despite major cuts to the authorization level to alleviate budget concerns – down from a five-year, $85.6 billion authorization to three-years and $48 billion – and inclusion of the anti-pornography amendment that derailed the effort last week. “I understand the concern of many of my colleagues about the overall size of a five year authorization, and this reduction is my sincere attempt at compromising on an issue that is very important to me,” stated Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN). “The bill before us today includes an overall funding reduction of almost 50 percent from H.R. 5116, as introduced.”
The America COMPETES Act was originally passed with strong bipartisan support in 2007 to authorize recommendations from the comprehensive National Academies competitiveness study, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” The COMPETES Act was part of President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative, and in 2007 it passed with unanimous consent in the House in less than an hour. It requires re-authorization this year to continue and faced relatively insignificant hurdles in passing the House Science & Technology Committee in late April (29-8 vote), with over 750 organizations offering their endorsement.
Advocates point out that the majority of U.S. economic growth in the 20th century resulted from technology innovation, and past federal investments in science and innovation led to the creation of the Internet, microchips, the aerospace and biotechnology industry, and more. “The path is simple,” stated Chairman Gordon, “research leads to innovation; innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs. Creating good jobs is the goal of this bill, and it is what our country needs right now.”
Nevertheless, according to The Hill, “Republican House members remained unsatisfied with Democrats’ research bill. The GOP issued a statement of policy just before the vote that slammed Gordon’s effort for failing to incorporate all six of their revisions, especially those that some members believe would reduce or eliminate “numerous new and unnecessary” programs.”