The Senate convened this morning to vote on a motion to invoke cloture that aimed to limit further debate on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) bill (S493) and its reauthorization through 2019, but failed to meet the required minimum of 60 votes. There was increased controversy arising from the bill, as amendments attached to it were considered irrelevant to the program; this included amending a provision to eliminate tax credits for blending ethanol with gasoline and tariffs on imported ethanol. It is expected that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will now turn away from the bill since cloture was not invoked.
The SBIR Program is geared to aiding small businesses in R&D fields. The current SBIR bill requires federal agencies with research and development budgets over $100 million to set aside 2.5% of its annual budget for small companies to conduct R&D. One of the provisions within both the House and Senate reauthorization bills concerns the gradual increase in the annual set-aside for small businesses from 2.5% to 3.5%. The UW has joined the broader university research community to support reauthorization of the SBIR program, but also expresses its opposition to any increase in the set-aside without a corresponding increase in the overall fiscal budgets for the research agencies. An increase in the set-aside without a corresponding increase in the research agencies budgets would draw billions of dollars away from funding for important scientific and medical research currently conducted at research universities.
In the House, progress continues on its version of the SBIR bill (HR1425). Several amendments to the bill have already been voted on and the legislation is currently awaiting full committee consideration and markup.
The current SBIR extension is set to expire on May 31st.