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America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of a very robust basic research and yield myself as much time as I may consume.

This COMPETES Act is back again. It's been here before, and it's living proof that Billy Graham was right when he said you can hate the sin but love the sinner. I'm fond of BART GORDON, have worked with him. We're going to miss him when he leaves here. But I've never really liked to have a great bill like COMPETES with so much piled on it, so many hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars piled on it that has never really been debated on either floor.

I've stated on this floor a lot of times this year, I remain committed to the goals of the original America COMPETES. Unfortunately, the Senate omnibus language before us today includes a hodgepodge of so many extraneous measures that it is indeed most surprising that we are considering this 5 days before Christmas. Like the House-passed version, it continues to take us off track from what he set out to do, in a bipartisan fashion, more than 5 years ago.

In 2007, Congress responded to the recommendations of many experts that the Federal Government must increase its investment in basic research and in science and math education by developing the America COMPETES Act. The principles behind the legislation were sound, bipartisan, and well-understood.

When COMPETES first passed, our budget deficit was projected at $160 billion, and the national debt was $8 trillion. Sadly, today, just 3 years later, the deficit's projected not $160 billion but $1.5 trillion, and the national debt is over $13 trillion, a 60 percent increase in less than 3 years. This dramatic collapse in our fiscal condition demands that we get spending under control and work harder than ever to patronize taxpayer dollars.

Before I delve into the depths of the bill, let me discuss the process that brought us to this point.

The Senate negotiated amongst themselves and hotlined a bill, then passed it via unanimous consent, that is much different than the bill reported out of even the Senate conference committee back in July. The report on that bill was not filed until December 10, and we didn't see the actual text of the amendment before us until last Friday, this past Friday. We still don't have a complete CBO cost estimate.

Now as we are under a closed rule, we are considering a measure that the Senate has spoken on; but the House as a body, both Democrats and Republicans alike, are having to either accept or reject the Senate's desire in whole, with no opportunity to offer amendments. This is not the way the American people want us to do their business.

They told us in November that they want us to do things differently, and this lame duck Congress is going against those wishes and denying us opportunity to carefully review the items in this $46 billion amendment.

Men who are much smarter than me and whom I greatly respect, like Norm Augustine and Peter O'Donnell, Jr., have encouraged me to support this bill. But, Mr. Speaker, it is hard for me to say that I just can't support this version of COMPETES. If this Senate COMPETES amendment is defeated today, I pledge as the incoming chairman of the Science and Technology Committee to reintroduce the good, fiscally responsible pieces of this comprehensive legislation agency by agency and issue by issue, giving each individual piece the opportunity to be reviewed and voted on by every Member.

Science and technology are the fundamental movers of our economy, and if we want to remain globally competitive, this bill should be considered in smaller pieces and not on the last day of a lame duck congressional session.

Yes, our friends in the Senate have made it a 3-year reauthorization bill, and, yes, they have nearly cut the cost in half; but this $46 billion bill still contains $7.4 billion in new spending.

My good friend and chairman of the committee will tell you that the Senate stripped a number of provisions from the version previously passed and trimmed the bill considerably. I, too, think the Senate missed an opportunity to retain some of the House-passed language, particularly language to assist institutions serving our Nation's veterans and those with disabilities, and language to eliminate pay for Federal employees officially disciplined for viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography on their work computers.

Unfortunately, it also does not include two bipartisan interagency bills that passed the House as standalone legislation, bills that would reauthorize our Nation's nanotechnology program and our networking information technology R&D program, NITRD.

On the other hand, I am heartened to see that the Senate removed a number of expensive and in many cases duplicative initiatives added by the House both in committee and on the floor: among them energy hubs, a clean energy consortium, never-before-funded STEM programs at the Department of Education, a laboratory science program, and a decades-old infrastructure construction program at the National Science Foundation.

Alas, it is the items that they did not remove or have not removed on their own, without our input, that cause me the most heartburn. I still have great concern that we are authorizing ARPA-E to the tune of $900 million. This program was never voted on by the House or Senate outside of a conference report, nor has it ever received appropriate funding outside of the stimulus bill. Yet we are going to authorize $900 million to a program that focuses on late-stage technology development and commercialization activities often already supported by the private sector. The amendment before us also keeps and expands a loan guarantee program to build or renovate science parks and develop ``regional innovation clusters,'' alters the MEP program for NIST to make grants to construction and green energy companies, and puts NSF in the business of replicating university programming for future STEM teachers.

Mr. Speaker, correct me if I'm wrong, but America COMPETES is about making this Nation more competitive and ensuring that our basic research agencies have the funding they need to pursue the unknown and scientific and engineering breakthroughs that propel us into the future. It is not about turning these agencies into infrastructure contractors and leaders or oracles, for that matter, who pick winners and losers.

As much as I want to support COMPETES and see NSF, NIST, and the DOE Office of Science reauthorized, I simply can't support this version.

Just like I stated when the House took up the measure on all three previous occasions, this measure continues to be far too expensive, particularly in light of the new and duplicative programs it creates. Further, we have not had the opportunity to give proper oversight to the programs we put in motion in the first COMPETES before authorizing new, additional programs. And, unfortunately, this bill still goes way beyond the goals and direction of the original America COMPETES, taking us from good, solid fundamental research and much too far into the world of commercialization, which many of us on this side of the aisle do not believe is the proper role of the Federal Government.

I want to again thank BART GORDON for the good services he's rendered and for the good service he'll render as a civilian over in the great State of Tennessee.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleague who will be working side by side with me for the next 2 years, my neighbor from Dallas and Rockwall County, that I appreciate her, look forward to working with her. She was the very first person, when I switched parties, to call me and say it didn't matter one iota to her. I've always appreciated her for that, and I still do and I will.

And thank you, Dr. EHLERS, a man who's always educated for us. That's his thrust, and he's done a good job. But for him, we'd have gone the wrong way a lot of times.

I now yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Broun).

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Mr. HALL of Texas. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam Speaker, I reiterate that I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act, and believe that we ought to continue to prioritize investments in basic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--STEM research and development.

These long-term investments, coupled with policies that reduce tax burdens, streamline Federal regulations, and balance the Federal budget are necessary steps for our Nation to remain competitive in the global marketplace. I hope my colleagues will join with me in seeking to do just that when the 112th Congress convenes.

In the meantime, I thank everybody involved; but for the reasons I have previously outlined, I must regretfully oppose this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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