Washington Update

Momentum Grows for the Bipartisan Innovation Act

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Last week Senate conferees were officially appointed to work out final legislative details for the Bipartisan Innovation Act currently pending in Congress. In addition, the Senate voted on various motions to instruct conferees although they are not obligated to follow them. A few of note are mentioned in this article and all were accepted. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered a motion to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to finance gain-of-function research conducted in China. Sen. James Risch’s (R-ID) motion to instruct conferees stated that the final conference report should include provisions that take actionable steps to address the risks of and counter malign or undue influence and activities in the United States and abroad by the Chinese Communist Party, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, or individuals or entities acting on their behalf. A third motion from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) insisted that the final conference report include provisions that fully fund programs to build institutional research capacity at historically Black colleges or other universities that are developing research institutions. Another directive from Sen. Ben Lujan (D-NM) urged that provisions supporting the work of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), user facilities of DOE, and National Laboratories be included in the final legislation. 

FASEB sent a letter to the conferees in support of key provisions in the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which will blend the House-passed America COMPETES Act with the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act. The process of conferencing will result in a compromise bill that both chambers can agree to and send to President Biden for his signature. There was speculation that the conferees hoped to complete their negotiations by Memorial Day. However, this is becoming more and more uncertain as other events have taken over the political debate, and there are other pieces of legislation in the health arena that need to be reauthorized by September 30, such as the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), the Generic Drug User Fee Act (GDUFA), the Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA), and the Medical Device User Fee Act (MDUFA). 

FASEB’s letter spoke to several issue areas such as immigration expansion for STEM doctorate and master’s degree holders, resourcing the DOE Office of Science infrastructure, workforce development, increasing the National Science Foundation’s authorized funding levels, and prohibiting restrictions on gain of function research.