Senate Commerce Committee Seeks Comments On COMPETES Reauthorization

As the American Institute of Physics notes in its FYI series, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has started work on a re-authorization of the COMPETES legislation.  Initially signed in 2007 by President George W. Bush, the bill covers authorization levels for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy.  The bill was reauthorized in 2010, and is overdue for another re-authorization.

The Committee announced that Senators Gardner (Republican – Colorado) and Peters (Democrat – Michigan) would lead the committee’s effort toward a re-authorization bill.  The Senators will start a series of meetings and briefings this month and seek input from interested parties.  Topics in these meeting will include: supporting basic research; improving education research and practices in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), and translating federal research into commercial applications for the benefit of the economy and society.

Interested parties can submit their comments by email to SciencePolicy@ commerce.senate.gov.  The committee has set a deadline on comments of August 21.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee started work on a re-authorization in 2013.  That process took over two years to produce a bill that passed the House.  Unfortunately, that process also demonstrated that the bi-partisan comity that was a hallmark of the Committee until about 2007 has completely evaporated.  The resulting House bill received no support from Democrats and the hint of a veto threat from the White House.  Should the Senate manage to pass a bill with support from both parties, it will still have to reconcile that bill with the House.  I wouldn’t expect this to happen before 2016.

What effect the presidential campaign will have on things is unclear.  Two committee members (Senators Cruz and Rubio) are running for President at the moment, but only one of them – Cruz – chairs a relevant subcommittee.  By the time legislation is ready for committee markup (probably early next year), the campaign trail may be commanding their attention too much for them to give this bill much heed.

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