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COMPETES Gets Derailed (Temporarily?)


The COMPETES bill we discussed yesterday just got derailed – at the moment it’s just temporary, but it’s unclear how it goes forward from this point. Republican Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) introduced a “Motion to Recommit with Instructions” that, to just about everyone’s surprise, passed. The motion has had the effect of forcing the Democrats to pull COMPETES from the floor without a vote on final passage, though they suggest it might come back next week.

In short, the motion to recommit with instructions sends the bill back to the committee from whence it came with instructions to amend it in specific ways. In this case, the instructions were to cut a number of “new” programs authorized in the bill (details below), add a provision that prohibits federal funds from being used to pay the salaries of federal employees who have been disciplined for watching porn (spurred on by the NSF pornography controversy), and freeze funding authorizations for NSF, NIST, and DOE – and eliminate funding for ARPA-E – during any year the budget isn’t balanced.

Apparently, it was the porn provision that pushed the votes in favor of the motion. Once there were over 218 votes in favor of the motion, a number of Democrats who had originally voted “no” changed their votes. The final vote on the motion was 292-126, with 121 Democrats voting in support of the motion.

Once the motion passed, Gordon pulled the bill from the floor, presumably because the changes to the bill were too significant for him to support.

So, it’s not clear how Gordon moves this bill forward. In a colloquy after the vote, the leadership suggested that the bill will be back on the floor next week. But I’m not sure how Gordon honors the instructions and still ends up with a bill he wants to pass. We’ll see.

Here’s a list of the programs that would be “cut” from the bill as a result of the motion:
NSF Prize Awards
Innovative Services Initiative
Fed Loan Guarantees for Innovative Technologies in Manufacturing
Regional Innovation Program
Energy Innovation Hubs

More news as I get it…

UPDATE: (5/13/2010) Rep. Gordon was not happy (obviously) with the Motion to Recommit. Here’s a transcript of his remarks on the floor in response, courtesy of CSPAN (I cleaned up the formatting a bit):

THERE WERE 69 CO-SPONSORS OF THE ORIGINAL AUTHORIZATION AND IT PASSED UNANIMOUSLY.

BUT WE RECOGNIZE THESE ARE DIFFICULT ECONOMIC TIMES.

AND SO WE MADE SOME CHANGES.

THIS BILL HAS BEEN CUT BY 10.3% FROM THE BILL THAT YOU VOTED FOR IN 2007.

THAT IS $9.6 BILLION.

NOW TELL ME WHAT AUTHORIZATION HAS BEEN CUT BY OVER 10%?
THIS IS THE ONLY ONE.

MR. HALL HAS A VERY GOOD CONCERNS ABOUT OUR VETERANS AND HE, EVERY DAY WHEN WE SEE HIM, WE SEE HIM AS AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WORLD WAR II VETERANS.

SO LANGUAGE WAS PUT IN THE BILL BOTH FOR SCHOLARSHIPS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL VETERANS AND ALSO FOR THOSE INSTITUTIONS. LET ME READ THIS TO YOU.

FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS REPORTED BY THIS ACT AND AMENDMENTS MADE THIS THIS ACT EDUCATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION OFFERING STEM RESEARCH EDUCATION ACTIVITIES THAT SERVE VETERANS WITH DISAIN’T SHALL RECEIVE SPECIAL CONSIDERATION.

WE HAVE TAKEN CARE OF THAT.

NOW LET’S GET DOWN TO THE HEART OF IT.

QUITE FRANKLY IT SADDENS ME TO HAVE TO GO INTO THIS.

IT SADDENS ME THAT WHEN WE LOOK AT OUR KIDS, I HAVE A 9-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, AND WHAT ABOUT HER FUTURE? WHAT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY’S FUTURE? WE ARE GOING TO HIDE BEHIND THIS.

WE ARE GOING TO GUT THIS BILL FOR THIS LITTLE BIT A FEW DAYS AGO THERE WAS SOME N.S.F. EMPLOYEES THAT WERE WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY.

OF COURSE THAT WAS BAD.

AND THEY WERE DISCIPLINED.

THERE’S BEEN THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, OFFICES, THERE’S FILTERING ON THAT NOW. NOBODY SERIOUSLY THINKS THAT WE WANT TO DEAL WITH PORNOGRAPHY HERE.

FOR GOD’S SAKES. WHEN IT GETS TO THE CONFERENCE, WE’LL TAKE CARE OF THAT EVEN MORE. BUT EVERYBODY — EVERYBODY RAISE YOUR HAND THAT’S FOR PORNOGRAPHY.

COME ON, RAISE YOUR HAND. NOBODY?

NOBODY IS FOR PORNOGRAPHYY? I’M SHOCKED.

I’M SHOCKED. I GUESS WE NEED THIS LITTLE BITTY PROVISION THAT MEANS NOTHING THAT’S GOING TO GUT THE ENTIRE BILL.

THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT.

UPDATE 2: Here’s The Hill on the story.

UPDATE 3: (5/13/2010; 5 pm) Gordon has released a statement:

“I’m disappointed that politics trumped good policy.  The Minority was willing to trade American jobs and our nation’s economic competitiveness for the chance to run a good political ad.

If at any point during the 48 hearings we’ve held on this bill, the Minority brought up their concerns with isolated incidents of federal employees viewing pornography, or if they had made an amendment in order during any of the three Subcommittee markups, the Full Committee Markup, or the Floor Consideration, I would have been happy to vote for that amendment.

We’re all opposed to federal employees watching pornography.  That is not a question; but that’s not what this was about.  The Motion to Recommit was about gutting funding for our science agencies.

I believe in American leadership, and I think COMPETES is too important to let die.  I would like to see it brought up again, but timing is unclear.  Advocates for science, technology, manufacturing, and education—including the 750 organizations that endorsed COMPETES and their memberships—need to make their case to Members of the House and Senate why this bill needs to be signed into law.”

And a statement from Rep. Hall, who introduced the Motion to Recommit:

“I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act and believe that we should continue to prioritize investments in basic research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” said Ranking Member Hall.  “However, this bill spends too much money and goes far beyond the original intent and scope of the COMPETES legislation.”

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COMPETES Gets Derailed (Temporarily?)