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Zachary Kurz
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‘COMPETES’ FAILS TO GET TWO-THIRDS VOTE NEEDED AFTER BIPARTISAN CHANGES WERE EXCLUDED FROM THE NEW BILL

Washington D.C. – May 19, 2010 - The House of Representatives today defeated H.R. 5325, a bill reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act, after language that was overwhelmingly approved on the House floor last week was stripped from this version of the bill.  Prior to a vote on the COMPETES Reauthorization last Thursday, 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 from consideration. 

 

Today, a new bill was brought to the floor, incorporating only two of the provisions from the successful MTR.  With many Republicans still concerned over increased spending, duplicative programs, and a shift in priorities, the new bill was defeated today by a vote of 261-148, failing to achieve the two-thirds of votes needed in order to pass under an expedited process, which does not allow further amendments.

 

“While I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act and to working with Democrats in a true bipartisan fashion to address Republican concerns,” Hall said, “the bill before us today continues to take us in a much more costly direction and authorizes a number of new programs which have little to do with prioritizing investments in basic research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.”

 

Last week’s Republican MTR, which was agreed to with broad bipartisan support, addressed many of these outstanding concerns.  Specifically, the MTR called 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 gives special consideration 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.

 

The new version of the bill voted on today, however, only incorporated two of these provisions: reducing the bill to a three-year authorization and prohibiting funds from paying the salary of any federal employee disciplined for viewing or downloading pornographic material.  All of the other provisions were stripped from H.R. 5325.

 

“While I would have preferred to use the regular amendment process, I believe these changes made the bill better,” Hall said.  “The spending levels supported by the MTR showed that we could be fiscally responsible while still supporting important investments in science and technology.”

 

Hall continued, “I am pleased to see that the bill before us today includes a couple of the provisions from the successful MTR. Unfortunately, this bill still contains new and duplicative programs, including some that were added during floor consideration last week.”  

 

Estimated at almost $48 billion, H.R. 5325 authorizes nearly $9.5 billion above currently appropriated levels.  “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,” Hall noted.

 

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

 

Finally, the issue of giving institutions serving disabled veterans special consideration for STEM grants, an issue of great importance to Ranking Member Hall, was also removed from the bill. “I am disappointed that the compromise language for disabled veterans that was included in the Motion to Recommit is not contained in this bill,” Hall said today.  “This is the second time disabled veterans language has been overwhelmingly accepted by both sides of the aisle, and this is the second time that it has been stripped out.”

 

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