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Zachary Kurz

Bipartisan majority passes Republican improvements; Democrats pull bill prior to final vote

Washington D.C. – May 13, 2010 - The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly voted to recommit H.R. 5116, a bill reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act, due to several concerns raised by Republicans.  A Motion to Recommit (MTR), offered by Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), passed the House by a vote of 292 to 126, resulting in the Democrats’ decision to pull the bill prior to final passage.


Republicans supported many of the programs in the underlying bill but raised a host of concerns regarding increased costs, a shift in priorities, and the inappropriate use of Federal funding represented in some of the programs.


“I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act and believe that we should continue to prioritize investments in basic research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” said Ranking Member Hall.  “However, this bill spends too much money and goes far beyond the original intent and scope of the COMPETES legislation.” 


The successful Republican MTR addressed many of these outstanding concerns.  Specifically, the MTR calls for:

·         Eliminating funding authorizations beyond 2013, saving $38.2 billion;

·         Striking the new programs in the bill, saving $1.3 billion;

·         Freezing funding for all existing programs at current levels for 2011-2013 unless there is no deficit, saving $8 billion;

·         Providing special consideration to schools that make STEM programs available to disabled veterans and to schools chartered to serve disabled students;

·         Prohibiting any Federal employee who has been disciplined for downloading, viewing, or exchanging pornographic material from receiving a salary on the taxpayer dollar; and

·         Ensuring that institutions receiving Federal funding allow military recruiters on their campuses.


Originally $86 billion, this reauthorization represented over $22 billion in new funding above the fiscal year 2010 base level, and nearly $8 billion above the 2007 House-passed 10-year “doubling path” for the three core agencies. The MTR passed today saves a total of $47.5 billion. During Floor debate on the bill, Hall said that “Given the current state of our national economy and the fact that our nation’s budget deficit has increased 50% since the last authorization three years ago, we must be mindful of our spending if America is to continue to compete globally.” 


Additionally, the bill establishes six new programs and initiatives: Department of Energy (DOE) energy innovation hubs, a Department of Commerce (DOC) loan guarantee program, DOC regional innovation clusters, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Pilot Program on Prizes, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) “Innovative Services Initiative,” and a NIST Bioscience Research Program.  Republicans raised concerns that many of these programs signal a shift in focus, funding activities beyond basic science research and development.  Further, Hall said that “many [new programs] are potentially duplicative of current efforts and could divert money away from priority basic research.”


Republicans offered several amendments throughout the legislative process to address these concerns, but Democrats blocked most of these from consideration and defeated others prior to passage of the Republican MTR.  Republicans were disappointed that they did not have the opportunity to cast a final vote on the improved bill.