Innovation, R&D and STEM Education Bill Passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 262-150 Friday to pass H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, authorizing federal support for R&D, government science agencies and education programs. When the bill first came up, opposition mostly from Republicans mostly on overspending forced the bill back to committee, but Friday’s final vote was bipartisan.

From a news release from Rep. Barton Gordon (D-TN), bill sponsor and chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee:

“If we are to reverse the trend of the last twenty years, where our country’s technology edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “The path is simple. Research and education lead to innovation. Innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs and the revenue to pay for more research. And as private firms under-invest in research and development because the returns are too far off in the future, there is a clear and necessary role of government to help our nation keep pace with the rest of the world.”

Rep. Gordon divided the bill’s consideration into nine separate votes before final passage, creating the political leverage to push it through.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), a cosponsor, highlighted the bill’s funding for manufacturing programs:

America COMPETES legislation will also provide critically needed help to our small- and medium-sized manufacturers who have been hard hit by the financial downturn. In order to improve competitiveness and access to capital, America COMPETES will provide Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees for these manufacturers. To help manufacturers modernize, this legislation authorizes the National Science Foundation to support research needed for advances in manufacturing. To ensure manufacturers will have the skilled employees they need, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers will be directed to work with local community colleges to ensure training programs fit the needs of local manufacturers. It will also reduce the cost share contribution for Manufacturing Extension Partnership program centers, which provides invaluable assistance to manufacturers by increasing their technological capabilities, instituting green or lean manufacturing techniques, and increasing their sales.

The National Association of Manufacturers had earlier sent a “Key Vote” letter to the House urging passage of the legislation, and the NAM’s support was widely cited by backers.

Leave a Reply