Washington Update

Schumer’s U.S. Competitiveness Bill Voted Out of the Senate

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, June 17, 2021

House Science Committee Prepares to Finalize Two Major Science Bills

A major victory for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took place on June 8 with the passage of S.1260, the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which also includes the Endless Frontier Act title reauthorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF) and enlarging its scope to work more on translational items. It passed in the Senate on a 68-32 bipartisan vote. However, the 2,000-page bill faces an uphill climb in the other body.

Meanwhile, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will have a full committee markup of its National Science Foundation for the Future Act, H.R.2225, on June 15, completing its work on the bill after subcommittee markup last month. The House bill provides $72 billion over five years for NSF and authorizes funding for a new technology directorate. It does not include multiple titles from other committees as the Senate version does.

The House is expected to address our nation’s global competitiveness with multiple independent bills moving through their respective committees over the next two months. It is unclear how leadership in the House and Senate will handle the ultimate goal of passing legislation that can be sent to the President. However, the scientific community has issued a community letter to House and Senate leadership, supported by FASEB, calling for a strong, nationwide science and technology (S&T) enterprise that will provide an increased and then sustained federal S&T investment that will set a standard of global leadership as our country confronts the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Also on the House Science Committee agenda is a $50 billion bill for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC), H.R.3593, which will provide comprehensive policy guidance and funding authorization for the major research programs stewarded by DOE SC. These programs include research on materials and chemical science, bioscience, climate science, scientific computing, and other areas. The bipartisan bill offers guidance for the Office of Science’s Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in DOE-supported science, technology, innovation, and math programs.

House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “This bill is the result of over a year of bipartisan engagement with our national laboratories, academic institutions, industry, scientific associations, and other relevant stakeholders.” The 29 national scientific user facilities supported at the DOE reach beyond energy topics where researchers can work on new ways to better treat disease and understand the inner workings of living systems.