House Approves America COMPETES Reauthorization, Despite GOP Concerns Over Rushed Process, Increased Spending

Dec 21, 2010

Washington, DC – December 21, 2010 – Today in a last-minute effort to push through a massive science and technology bill before Congress adjourns, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 228 to 130, passed a Senate substitute amendment to H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.   The Senate, late last Friday, approved the amendment, which makes numerous substantive changes to the House version of the bill. 

While supportive of responsible investments in basic research and development (R&D) and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman-elect of the House Science and Technology Committee, today opposed this bill, raising numerous concerns over new unnecessary programs, and the hasty process by which the bill was brought under consideration.

“We did not see the actual text of the amendment before us until last Friday,” Hall noted.  “We still do not have a complete CBO cost estimate.  This is not the way the American people want us to do their business.  They told us in November that they want us to do things differently, and this lame duck Congress is going against those wishes and denying us the opportunity to carefully review the items in this $46 billion amendment.” 

As the incoming Chairman of the committee with jurisdiction, Hall pledged to conduct rigorous oversight over the programs included in this bill, suggesting that it is more responsible to consider programs individually rather than in a large package.  “Science and technology are the fundamental movers of our economy,” Hall said, “and if we want to remain globally competitive, this bill should be considered in smaller pieces and not on the last day of a lame duck Congressional session.”

While supporters of the bill have touted the Senate amendment as a more fiscally conservative compromise,  the bill still includes $7.4 billion in new spending. 

Prior to the final call to vote, Rep. Hall concluded, saying, “As much as I want to support COMPETES and see NSF, NIST and the DOE Office of Science reauthorized, I simply cannot support this version.  This measure continues to be far too expensive, particularly in light of the new and duplicative programs it creates.  Further, we have not had the opportunity to give proper oversight to the programs we put in motion in the first COMPETES before authorizing new, additional programs.  And, unfortunately, this bill still goes way beyond the goals and direction of the original America COMPETES, taking us from good, solid fundamental research and much too far into the world of commercialization, which many of us on this side of the aisle do not believe is the proper role of the federal government.”