The bill would reauthorize the 2007 America COMPETES Act for five years and would authorize about $82 billion in funding for the bill's programs.
The House Science Committee began work Wednesday on legislation that would reauthorize a law aiming to double authorized funding for research and development at key science agencies, enhance support for science and math education and other programs aimed at boosting U.S. innovation.
The committee is expected to take up nearly 60 amendments Wednesday.
The bill would reauthorize the 2007 America COMPETES Act for five years and would authorize about $82 billion in funding for the bill's programs. Republicans offered numerous amendments aimed at cutting authorized funding levels in the bill and to reduce the bill's timeline from a five-year authorization to three years, the timeline included in the 2007 law. "I remain committed to investing in basic research and development, but I am also mindful of our current dire economic situation," House Science and Technology Chairman Committee ranking member rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, said.
House Science Committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon, R-Tenn., said he has already made concessions on the issue of fiscal responsibility by cutting authorization levels by 10 percent, as part of the manager's amendment, by stretching out the timeline to 2017 for doubling funding for basic R&D activities at the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Energy Department's science office. The 2007 law called for doubling research funding at these agencies by 2014.
The panel, for the most part, rejected efforts to cut the bill's overall timeline and to reduce authorization levels. However, the panel adopted by voice vote an amendment from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., that called for authorizing the Energy Department's ARPA-e program, which aims to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology projects aimed at enhancing energy independence, for five years instead of the 10 years called for in the original bill.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., offered an amendment, defeated on an 24-11 vote, that would have cut the bill's authorization levels and authorized the bill's programs for three years instead of five. "We're stealing our children's and grandchildren's future," Broun said. "I'm not in favor of cutting these programs, but we need to hold the line for a while. We've got to stop the spending."
Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., argued that the amendment would do little to reduce spending and instead would hinder research efforts by making it more difficult to do long-term research projects. "It's a largely specious amendment," he said. "It will undermine science."