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Renewing America Competes Act

Legislation: House committee clears bill to continue investment in science, innovation, and education

by Susan R. Morrissey
May 3, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 18

Credit: Patrick McDermott/UPI/Newscom
Gordon presided over the nine-hour bill markup that included consideration of nearly 55 amendments.
Credit: Patrick McDermott/UPI/Newscom
Gordon presided over the nine-hour bill markup that included consideration of nearly 55 amendments.

A bill to advance innovation in the U.S. through increased investment in three key science agencies and in education cleared the House of Representatives Science & Technology Committee on April 28. The America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5116) now heads to the House floor for an expected mid-May vote.

Under the bill, which received bipartisan approval, NSF, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will continue on a 10-year budget-doubling track that began when the original America Competes legislation was signed into law in 2007. The authorized 7% annual growth over the next five years for the three agencies will still have to be appropriated each year by Congress.

“This funding trajectory is not as steep as the bill enacted in 2007, and it is not as shallow as the President’s budget request,” said Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), the committee chairman and the sponsor of the bill, after the legislation was approved. “These levels are lower than I would like them, but I believe they are practical, considering our current budget deficits.”

Committee Republicans, although supportive of the bill, continue to question its estimated $83 billion price tag. “I remain committed to investing in basic science research and development, but I am also mindful of our current dire economic situation,” Ranking Member Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas) said. “As stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, during these times we need to be even more vigilant with how we allocate our resources.”

The bill also boosts support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. And it supports innovation by reauthorizing DOE’s high-risk Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy development program and by authorizing DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs to support clean energy development.

“Despite these partisan times, it is very heartening to see that a majority of both parties has united in support of reauthorizing America Competes,” says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs. “We are hopeful that this test vote in committee is indicative of the bipartisan support the bill will enjoy when it comes to the full House for a vote.”



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