May 20, 2010
On Wednesday, May 19, a vote to pass HR 5325 failed by a vote of 261-148 (under special rules, the bill required a 2/3 vote to pass). HR 5325 was a re-worked version of HR 5116, that had been pulled from the floor after Republicans added a poison-pill amendment to the bill that would require any federal employee who viewed pornography on a government computer to be fired and froze America COMPETES programs at the FY 2010 level. (For a pointed look at the political maneuvering, see Norman Orenstein’s opinion piece in the May 19 issue of Roll Call).
America COMPETES, first enacted in 2007, authorized funding for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and programs in the Energy Department, including new and expanded programs to support STEM education.
Prior to rejection by the House, Rep. Bart Gordon, chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, released the following statement:
The reintroduced America COMPETES Reauthorization Act is a 50 percent cut in the funding path from H.R. 5116 as introduced. While I certainly would have preferred the stability a five-year authorization would have given our science agencies, I am willing to compromise with the Minority, in the interest of getting a good bill through the House and to our colleagues in the Senate. This legislation is too important to our nation’s scientific and economic leadership to let it fall victim to political gridlock. The bill has a less steep funding trajectory than the 2007 COMPETES, H.R. 2272, which passed the 110th Congress 367 to 57, with the support of 143 Republicans, 101 of whom are serving in the 111th Congress.
The bill that came out of the Committee had been developed with bipartisan cooperation between Chairman Gordon and the ranking Republican member, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (MI), a long-time friend of STEM research and education, both of whom will retire from Congress after this year. The MAA, along with other STEM societies, advocated on behalf of the bill, and worked with committee staff to support efforts to produce a strong bill that would help move STEM research and education forward, and supported passage of both the original and revised versions. This work will continue, but at this point it is unclear whether the House or Senate can muster enough support to bring the legislation forward in the relatively limited amount of time before the mid-term elections.
To learn more about MAA science policy efforts, visit www.maa.org/sciencepolicy.