FINAL UPDATE: (5/28/10 3:05 pm) COMPETES passes, sans troublesome MTR language: 262 – 150 with 17 Republicans in support.

Now, on to the Senate!

UPDATE: (5/28/10) – It looks like Rep. Gordon got creative with a solution to the COMPETES Act logjam. In a surprise move, he’s brought the original bill back to the floor just now and asked that the Motion to Recommit language (which essentially gutted the original bill and added the anti-porn language as a trap to insure both sides voted for it) be considered as a “divided question” – a move that allows the House to consider each portion of the motion on its own. So, instead of one up or down vote, it’s nine different votes, then a move for final passage of the bill. So far (through seven sections) the Dems have killed all the attempts to gut COMPETES. I’m guessing at this point that the bill is a done deal, but we’ll know in about 30 mins.

UPDATE: (5/19/2010 1:13 pm ET) The bill did not receive enough votes to pass under suspension. There’s a lot to unpack here and try to understand, but for now we’ll just link to Gordon’s press release, which was clearly written before the vote (it appeared a few minutes after the vote was finalized).

COMPUTING RESEARCH ADVOCACY NETWORK ACTION ALERT!

***ACTION NEEDED NOW: Please contact your representative in Congress *NOW* to urge his or her support for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act when it comes up for a vote this afternoon!***

The ‘WHAT TO DO’ section below gives specific suggestions and a ready-to-use sample letter for how to quickly contact your representative.

THE SITUATION:

An attempt to pass the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which would authorize significant increases for several key science agencies and include provisions related to the National Information Technology R&D program, was derailed last week by a procedural vote that sent the bill back to the House Science and Technology committee with instructions to strike the increases and eliminate a number of new programs. Rather than comply with the instructions and, in essence, neuter the bill, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bart Gordon, Chair of the House S&T Committee, pulled the bill from consideration in the hope of bringing it back to the floor at a later date. It appears that bill is coming back to the floor this week.

Members of Congress need to be urged to support the bill because federal investment in research remains a key part of the vibrant innovation ecosystem that helps preserve U.S. leadership in an increasingly competitive world. They need to be reminded that the investments in NSF, DOE and NIST will help ensure the U.S. continues the produce the ideas and talent that drive American science and industry, creating new technologies, new industry sectors, and new high value jobs.

BACKGROUND:

The America COMPETES Act of 2007 marked the culmination of a several-years long effort to achieve increased funding for the federal agencies responsible for investments in the “physical sciences” (which, in DC parlance, includes computing research). COMPETES authorized several years of budget increases for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Energy’s Office of Science – increases that put the agencies on a path towards doubling their budgets over the next 7 to 10 years. The  authorizations contained in the 2007 version of the COMPETES Act are expiring, so Chairman Gordon introduced H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to continue the authorizations for the science agencies on roughly the same trajectory as the original bill. In addition, Gordon’s bill includes authorizations for a number of programs designed to increase the participation of U.S. students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, includes two free-standing bills already passed by the full House – the National Nanotechnology Initiative Reauthorization bill and the National Information Technology Research and Development Act – and a number of other programs designed to improve the climate of innovation for U.S. companies.

Given the election-year climate and a Republican minority that sees a chance to pick up dozens of seats in the House in November, it was unlikely from the start that the bill would receive wide bipartisan support. However, the Republican leadership, figuring it would lose a straight party-line vote, utilized a procedural gambit to imperil the bill’s passage and potentially deny the Democrats a legislative “victory.” They seized on last year’s revelations that NSF had disciplined a number of employees, including at least one in senior leadership, for using their government-issued computers to view pornographic material. Republican House S&T Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) used a “Motion to Recommit With Instructions” that would send the bill back to the House S&T Committee with instructions to add language to fire anyone at a federal agency disciplined for viewing pornography, along with a provision that would freeze funding in the bill in any year in which the government ran a deficit (which is essentially every year for the foreseeable future) and cut a number of new programs the bill would have created, mostly designed to spur industrial innovation.

Not wishing to be seen as “pro-pornography,” 121 Democrats broke rank and joined Republicans in supporting the motion. (The only Republican voting against the motion was Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), a former physicist who has already announced his retirement.) Rather than accede to the motion, Gordon pulled the COMPETES reauthorization from the floor.

The Democratic leadership has announced that the bill will return to the floor TODAY. We need to urge support for the funding authorizations including in the COMPETES Act reauthorization bill because those investments are critical in keeping U.S. innovation moving forward. The research supported by the funds in this act create the ideas and develop the talent that will keep the U.S. in a leadership role in an increasingly competitive world.

WHAT TO DO:

The most important thing you can do now is call or fax your representative **NOW** and urge them to support the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. A sample letter you can use can be found at COMPETES_ActionAlert_Sample_letter. Please complete it using your own information and FAX it to your Representative’s office NOW. Please also send a copy of your fax to Melissa Norr at 202.667.1066. Having copies of letters from our community is incredibly helpful in our advocacy activities in Washington.

To identify your Representative visit Write Your Rep.

If you have any trouble figuring out your Member of Congress or his or her contact information, please don’t hesitate to contact Melissa (mnorr@cra.org) for help.

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