COMPETES Reauthorization passes House, finally

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Today I received word by email from Congressman Dan Lipinski’s office (Democrat from Illinois 3) that the COMPETES reauthorization act finally passed as H.R. 5116 (not as 5325, Rep. Gordon’s Hail Mary attempt to get around the Republicans evil partisan play to kill the bill by turning it into a vote about federal employees looking at naughty pictures at work). Thomas and the several other sites I use to track progress on various bills aren’t caught up with the action, so I don’t yet know what the final bill and its amendments look like. The vote was 262 to 150.

Lipinski is the Chairman of the Committee on Science & Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee. You may recall that Bart Gordon (D from Tennessee 6) is the Chair of the Committee on Science & Technology, the sponsor of the original COMPETES bill in 2007, and the reauthorization bill’s motive force in the House.

From the text of Lipinski’s email, it appears as though some of the major provisions that Republicans had tried to amend out made it through the final vote, including prizes and funding for additional university infrastructure

US Capitol DomeThe COMPETES Act includes Chairman Lipinski’s National Science Foundation reauthorization bill, H.R. 4997, as well as a measure he authored to establish prizes for breakthrough scientific research. The NSF component of COMPETES takes steps to improve academic research infrastructure – such as lab space, networks, instruments, and computing facilities – and requires the National Science Board to develop recommendations for how to better handle mid-scale research instrument proposals. In addition, Chairman Lipinski successfully defended the Academic Research Facilities Modernization Program, which authorizes funding for university infrastructure, from an attempt to repeal it.

I’m not sure how they did it, but the good guys won this time. Here is a link to  Rep Gordon’s press release about the successful vote; if Rep. Lipinski posts a release, I’ll link to it here as well.


  1. Hi John,

    Rep. Gordon did it by bringing the bill back to the floor and requesting that the original “Motion to Recommit” language (which gutted the bill the first time around) be subject to a “division of the question” – essentially asking that the MTR be reconsidered in parts, rather than as one up or down vote. After a brief back and forth with Rep. Hall (R-TX), who introduced the MTR, it was decided that the motion should be divided into nine separate pieces. The Democrats opposed all of them except the anti-porn language and the provision that prohibits federal funding for Higher Ed institutions that don’t allow military recruiting on their campuses. All the other “problematic” language – ie, language that would eliminate programs created by the original bill or freeze authorization levels at the current amount – was defeated. Having dispensed with the MTR, the Dems passed the final bill 262-150, with 17 Republicans joining them.

    It was sort of a sneak attack by Gordon, who apparently caught the S&T Committee Republicans by surprise with the maneuver. I have to say, it’s not very common in S&T legislation. I think the last time it was deployed (according to the committee) was ’93. Though it’s been used on other occasions in the House, as recently as March of this year.

    Anyway, quite an interesting bit of maneuvering to get this bill passed. Now we’ll see what happens in the Senate… 🙂

    -Peter Harsha
    Computing Research Association

  2. John West says

    Peter – as always, I’m glad you’re out there watching. I have to say that you seem to have a really interesting job!