Federal Relations

May 20, 2010

Reauthorization of the COMPETES Act Stumbles (Again)

The House of Representatives has run into difficulty in pasing the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. After failing to advance to a final vote last week, because of passage of a motion to send the legislation back to committee for additional consideration, on Wednesday May 19th the House failed to pass a revamped version under the expedited procedure of suspension of the rules.  The vote was 261 to 148, which was 12 votes short of the two-thirds vote needed for approval.  Fifteen Republicans voted in favor of the bill, including Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA-8th District); no Democrats opposed it.

Following the vote, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) stated that he will continue to move the bill towards passage. He commented that “this bill is too important to let fall by the wayside.” 

As stated previously on this site, the legislation would authorize substantial funding increases for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. 

The bill considered yesterday (H.R. 5325) differed from the first version of the legislation (H.R. 5116) in three respects:  it reduced the authorization period from five years to three years, which Chairman Gordon asserted cut the authorized funding in half; it included all 52 amendments accepted during House floor consideration of H.R. 5516; and it incorporated Republican language to ban the use of authorized funds to pay the salary of federal employees disciplined for looking at pornography at work.  House S&T Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) said the new measure still failed to address several Republican concerns.

A separate issue of concern in the bill for the university research community has been House approval of an amendment offered by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA).  The amendment, which is now part of H.R. 5325, links public universities’ response to information requests from their labor unions with their ability to collect facilities and administrative costs for their research grants. UW is working with several higher education associations to bring about an acceptable alternative.

Statement from House Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon