The Democratic-led Congress is committed to creating prosperity through science and innovation, reasserting our economic and technological leadership throughout the world in the decades to come, and giving future generations greater opportunity to achieve the American dream. Boosting our national competitiveness is essential to our economy–about half of the growth in our GDP since World War II is related to the development and adoption of new technology. That is why the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act is so critical to our competitiveness and creating good paying jobs in the 21st Century. The bill:
Keeps our nation on a path to double funding for basic scientific research, crucial to some of our most innovative breakthroughs, over 10 years
Creates jobs with innovative technology loan guarantees for small and mid-sized manufacturers and Regional Innovation Clusters to expand scientific and economic collaboration
Promotes high-risk high reward research to pioneer cutting edge discoveries through ARPA-E
Creates the next generation of entrepreneurs by improving science, math, technology, and engineering education at all levels
Last week, Republicans derailed the bipartisan legislation by putting in unrelated language through a Republican motion to recommit (MTR). Norm Ornstein, a noted congressional scholar and fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, explains:
Twice in recent days, House Republicans have found a way to draft MTRs with instructions that have deep-sixed important bills, the first on the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, the “cash for caulkers”; the second, last week, on the America COMPETES Act, a jobs bill focused on increasing science, research and training investment.
These MTRs have been in the news not because they represented the minority party's alternative vision for dealing with energy policy or science and tech and jobs policy — but because they were designed to kill bills by offering red herring “gotcha” amendments, including one in the energy bill to require contractors to ensure that no employee had been convicted of child molestation and one in the jobs/tech bill to require that any federal employee who had viewed or downloaded pornography be fired. Both were attempts to force Democrats to withdraw their bills — and more importantly, to set up 30-second attack ads against vulnerable Members for supporting child molesters and pornography.
But the America COMPETES reauthorization was done in a bipartisan fashion and involves a bill with little division or controversy. The original bill, when it came up in 2007, got 367 votes in the House. This version involved close cooperation between Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), hardly a knee-jerk partisan or authoritarian, and Michigan Republican Rep. Vernon Ehlers, one of the most thoughtful House experts on science matters. The porn measure was not raised in the committee nor brought up as a possible amendment for the bill on the floor. It was sprung at the last minute solely as a stink bomb. Among House Republicans, only Ehlers, who is retiring, voted against the MTR. When the Democrats withdrew the bill, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) were visibly exultant.
John Boehner used to be a serious legislator. Eric Cantor is smart and a justifiably rising star in the GOP firmament. But they are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious. Instead of encouraging a constructive relationship with the serious and fair-minded legislators on the Democratic side, they are adding to the traction of their take-no-prisoners counterparts. What a shame.
In an effort to move the legislation forward, a revised COMPETES Act was brought to the floor today identical to last week's bill, including the 52 amendments adopted during the floor debate, with two exceptions:
the authorization period was reduced from 5 years to 3 years (reducing the cost almost in half)
it included the language from the Republican motion to recommit (MTR) banning the use of authorized funds to pay the salary of federal employees disciplined for looking at pornography
And still, more than 90% of Republicans voted no today to create more American jobs by investing in manufacturing and spurring innovation through research and development. While the bill received majority support (261-148) it fell short of the two-thirds necessary under suspension of the rules. Keep in mind, this bill passed by a vote of 367-57, with 143 Republican ayes, less than three years ago.
Today's action makes it very clear that Republicans are not fighting for the American people, they are fighting for their own political self-interest. Democrats, however, will not stop fighting to create jobs and help the middle class, and so I will bring the COMPETES Act back to the House Floor under a rule soon.
Speaker Pelosi on today’s vote:
Science and technological innovation have formed the backbone of our progress as a people and our prosperity as a nation. And investments in innovation are essential to restoring our economic strength today.
The COMPETES Act will spur innovation, invest in cutting-edge research, modernize manufacturing and create jobs. Simply put, it is about good paying jobs for Americans, strong American leadership in the global economy, and long-term growth for America's workers and families. These all-American goals deserve bipartisan support and have received overwhelming votes in the past. Yet today, as they did last week, Republicans chose cheap political tricks over progress.
Democrats will continue to work on the side of the middle class and America's Main Street. And we urge Republicans to stop the cynical games that come at the expense of America's Main Street.
Even before the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act and the COMPETES Act, Republicans have been obstructing job creating legislation. They have continued to vote against efforts to keep good-paying jobs here in America–against key investments in science and innovation in the Recovery Act, ranging from historic investments in safe, clean energy, to basic research today for the cutting edge technology of tomorrow. Yet, as President Obama stated yesterday in Ohio, Congressional Republicans are no stranger to claiming the success of the economic recovery legislation as their own:
…even as they've tried to score political points attacking these Members of Congress, a lot of them go home and then they claim credit for the very things they voted against. They'll show up at the — to cut the ribbons. They'll put out a press release. They'll send the mailings touting the very projects that they were opposing in Washington. They're trying to have it both ways.