Senate Passes America COMPETES

After months of trying, the U.S. Senate finally passed a reauthorization of the America COMPETES act last week, more than two months after the initial version of it, passed in 2007, expired.  The 2010 version focuses on three main areas: (1) increasing science and research investments, (2) strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.  In particular, the bill provides a three-year reauthorization of the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and it authorizes funding increases for those agencies that would keep their budgets on a path toward doubling over a 10-year period.

The bill was passed by the Senate hotline process, a unique procedure that, barring any objection, allows a bill to be introduced and approved in 24 hours by unanimous consent.  The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation had approved the bill over the summer, but, as other issues gained priority in the full Senate, the reauthorization was left to languish.  Committee chairman John Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., praised the bill’s passage as “an investment in America’s future and our long-term competitiveness in the global marketplace.”

The bill now returns to the U.S. House of Representatives, where a slightly different version had been approved in May.  Specifically, the Senate version is lower in cost than the House version and would repeal programs from the original act that have not previously been funded.  Despite those differences, outgoing science and technology committee chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., has signaled his willingness to accept compromises to get the reauthorization passed before his retirement.

He said: “I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing, for what is likely my final act on this House floor after 26 years of service, than sending this bill to the president’s desk.”

ASBMB had previously joined with other organizations to sign a letter, addressed to the Senate leadership, urging passage of America COMPETES.

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