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Public Statements

America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today to speak on H.R. 5325, a bill reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act. I believe long-term investment in science and technology, coupled with policies that reduce tax burdens, streamline Federal regulations, and balance the Federal budget are very vital for our Nation to remain competitive in the global marketplace. However, we must also put our fiscal house in order to ensure that we're not leveraging the future of our children and our grandchildren.

While I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act, the bill before us today continues to take us in a much more costly direction and authorizes a number of new programs which have little to do with prioritizing investments in basic science, technology, engineering, and math research and development.

On May 12 and 13, this bill was considered by the full House of Representatives. Republican attempts to offer amendments to reduce the spending level in the bill and reduce the length of the authorization from 5 years to 3 years were denied. Our attempt to ensure schools serving the disabled and disabled veterans was also denied.

Because Republicans were denied the opportunity to even offer these amendments on the House floor, have a meaningful dialogue about them, we sought to ensure that these ideas were considered by all of the Members of the House of Representatives through our motion to recommit. Our motion, as you well know, included the proposed compromise language to encourage education opportunities for the disabled and disabled veterans, language to reduce the authorization levels to fiscal year 2010 levels, and to authorize these programs for 3 years rather than 5.

The motion also included provisions to eliminate a number of new spending programs in favor of supporting the core COMPETES programs. Overall spending levels were reduced by around $47 billion in the motion to recommit, but still remained well above the $24 billion in the House-passed 2007 version of COMPETES. In addition to the reductions in spending, the motion addressed concerns about Federal employees' misuse of time and government property.

When given the opportunity to consider these issues, the House of Representatives supported them overwhelmingly by a vote of 292-126. While I would have preferred to use the regular amendment process, I believe these changes made the bill better. The spending levels supported by the motion showed that we could be fiscally responsible while still supporting important investments in science and technology. It was disappointing when the majority made the decision to pull this improved bill from consideration by the whole House of Representatives.

I'm pleased that the bill before us today includes a couple of provisions from the successful motion to recommit, such as the reduction in the authorized length from 5 years to 3 years, as well as the prohibition on paying the salaries of workers who misuse government time and property. These are sensible, good government provisions.

Unfortunately, the bill before us today continues to contain new and duplicative programs, including some that were added during floor consideration last week. For example, the bill includes language establishing energy innovation hubs at DOE which are duplicative of a number of programs already in existence at DOE. There is also a new program to pursue commercialization of clean energy technology which is duplicative of the hubs program. Several of these programs fund activities beyond basic science research and development and will divert money away from priority basic research. At a time when the Federal Government spending is out of control, we need to be streamlining and prioritizing programs to protect taxpayers, not duplicating them.

I'm also opposed to a provision that was added on the floor last week that dictates that any public university receiving funds under this bill would be required to maintain an information policy wherein failure to respond within 15 days to any union request for information would result in the threat of losing Federal funding. This provision places Federal agencies awarding funding in the role of administering State labor laws. This is an inappropriate provision that will place added burdens on our university system and certainly does nothing to advance the main goals of the COMPETES legislation.

I also remain concerned with the overall funding levels in this bill. At almost $48 billion, the bill represents $9.5 billion above the fiscal year 2010 baseline extended out 3 years. It's also important to note that the core agencies in this bill received an additional $5 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act already. Given the current state of our national economy and the fact that our Nation's budget deficit has increased 50 percent since the last authorization 3 years ago, we must be mindful of our spending if America is to continue to compete globally.

Finally, I'm disappointed that the compromise language for disabled veterans that was included in the motion to recommit is not contained in this bill. This is the second time disabled veterans language has been overwhelmingly accepted by both sides of the aisle, and this is the second time that it has been stripped out of the bill. Every one of us will run into these fine young men and women back in our districts in about 10 days when we speak to them on Memorial Day. I think we ought to be telling these wounded warriors who are returning to civilian life after making life-altering sacrifices in defense of our freedom that we just ensured that the colleges and universities they attend will get the same special consideration as other schools afforded special consideration so that they, too, can take advantage of STEM opportunities and contribute to the competitiveness of this great Nation that they so ably defended.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. In my opinion, this is really shameful if we were denied this small opportunity to show our appreciation not only to them but to the schools that are reaching out to them.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly rise today to urge us not to approve the present bill, and I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation until the language that they all agreed to and agreed to include by a vote of 292-126 is put back in this bill. The will of the House and its Members should be followed.

And I, as a veteran of World War II, would hate to go back 10 days from now and look into the faces of those that we're addressing on Memorial Day, at a time when we should be remembering them, that we do stop here and pray for them and drop our heads for a minute, and I think that's a wonderful thing for the Speaker to do. But I think today's the day for us to raise our head, lift up our thoughts, remember these men and include them. If we can spend this kind of money and ignore the needs of a very dedicated few, I think we'll be making a dreadful mistake.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I recognize that we all write language differently. However, once the House has voted on and passed that language, I think it ought to be included in the bill that the House is considering. And that's happened not once, but a couple of times. Regretfully, I disagree with the chairman. There is no assurance in the underlying bill that a single institution helping disabled veterans would benefit.

Further, let me say this. I don't say that the gentleman from Tennessee doesn't support disabled veterans, or anybody on this floor. I think we are all mindful of the debt we owe to those people. It's a matter of trying to get together on something that really gives them that that we are intending, that we indicate that we are giving them. And they just don't receive that under the language that's proposed in this bill, but it can be fixed.

I have worked with the chairman. He is an honorable, decent, very good chairman, a good friend, and has worked hard and has improved this bill. He knocked it down from 5 years to 3. And that knocked it down to almost $47 billion, the cost of this bill. Still, $11 billion at least too excessive, but he has made an effort.

And we are so close that the language that he just read to you, if we can change two words in it. Instead of on the sixth sentence of what the current bill is that we are looking at today, they put that they serve veterans, change that just ``available to veterans.'' We are that close to settling this, and probably at least giving the veterans something, not giving them everything they need.

I just think that while it gives some special consideration to schools that are chartered for disabled students and those serving disabled veterans, it's not a consideration that's consistent with other schools in the bill or in schools with unrepresented populations today. And I say based on that, creating yet another tier or class of institutions versus playing them on the same and putting them on the same equal playing field is just not quite enough.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank Professor Ehlers for his good explanation of his position on the bill. That's been his position from the word ``go.'' And there were others on the Republican side in committee who differed with those of us that were addressing the bill. And we all have a right to disagree. And I respect that.

This bill got better. It didn't get better out of Rules because it didn't give us a rule that gave us a shot at it. But it got better as they had the vote yesterday. It's a little bit better as the chairman has brought it to us today. And I must say this, that the chairman has improved the ability for the veterans to benefit. And we are very close.

And the chairman has said that he wants to continue to work on this. And when we are just along three or four paragraphs, we are just two words away from it, I certainly take BART GORDON at his word and will work with him. I think that we should have the words ``available to'' instead of ``that serve'' those to veterans. What's available to them is very important. And we would like to have that in the bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. We are concerned with other parts of this program. We're concerned about the duplicative programs in the bill that are a waste of government resources and a waste of taxpayer dollars. In a time where we have scarce resources, we should be thinking about spending money on other things like research and not spending them on the same things that are in several different programs.

One example of this in H.R. 5325 is the energy innovation hubs program which duplicates a number of programs that are already available at the Department of Energy.

So let me say to the chairman and this Congress and anybody who would hear us, this bill has been improved; the chairman has been amenable to working together and making suggestions. He has listened to us. He hasn't always minded me, but he has listened; and I think that's unusual and kind of my friend from Tennessee.

He's changed this bill from an $86 billion bill to a $47 billion from 5 years to 3 years. So we feel like we've made considerable progress; and I think any bill, $86 billion to $47 billion, with that type of money, that ought to spawn money for the little disabled veterans that just want a small piece of it.

I think as we go along, and I hope that we can work this out, I hope that we will oppose this bill. We have a vote today. It's going to take two-thirds to pass it. Perhaps the chairman has the votes. But if not, I think in the next 48 hours we can improve it substantially, and once again be more proud of a bill that we've been for from the word ``go.'' We've been for the thrust of the bill. We just objected to the cost and to the failure to include little people and to duplicate so many of these processes.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate that Republican motion to recommit eliminated the new programs in the bill. New programs in the bill shift an emphasis away from basic research towards technology commercialization activities that could potentially divert money away from basic research and could lead to inappropriate market innovation.

Keeping the language in the bill would reduce authorization levels in the bill by $1.3 billion. The Republican motion to recommit kept all existing programs at fiscal year 2010 appropriated levels. Given that our Nation's debt is currently $13 trillion and our Nation's budget deficit has increased 50 percent in 3 years, it's prudent to put the brakes on significant increases in spending for years to come.

This bill is better than the bill was when it was introduced. It's not as good as the bill was when it left the committee that first considered it. It's not as good a bill as it was when they accepted and voted ``yes''--Republicans and Democrats alike--on the motion to recommit.

So we've made some improvements. I'm not discouraged. I still like the thrust of the bill, and I look forward to working with the chairman from this day forward.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the amount of time that I may consume subject to my limitations.

Yes, Mr. Chairman, I would like a perfect bill. All of us would like a perfect bill, and I don't wish to pit the National Taxpayers Union who oppose this bill against the Chamber of Commerce who supports this bill. But I do seek perfection. I don't think we have a perfect bill. I doubt that we could ever get a perfect bill, but we can have a better bill. We've got a better bill than we had when it was introduced. We've got a better bill than we had when it came out of committee.

We can reach perfection if we work long enough. I don't seek perfection, but I would like as good a bill as we can get, treating veterans the way they ought to be treated and not spending money that is needed for other matters, certainly. I urge a ``no'' vote.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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