The House cleared legislation Tuesday that would reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which authorizes basic research, programs aimed at boosting science, technology, engineering and math education and other measures aimed at promoting U.S. innovation.
The legislation will head to President Obama's desk after the House voted 228-130 to adopt the Senate's changes to the House bill. The bill faced an unexpectedly rocky road to congressional passage after the House rejected the measure twice before finally passing it in May.
The bill would reauthorize the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the research programs in the Energy Department's Office of Science. In addition to reauthorizing STEM education programs, it also would establish an interagency STEM education coordination committee. To help firms bring innovations to market, the bill would create a Commerce Department program to provide loan guarantees to small and medium-sized manufacturers for the use or production of innovative technologies.
"If we are to reverse the trend of the last 20 years, during which our country's technological edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today," House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., who has been the bill's leading champion in Congress, said in a statement. The bill was a top priority for Gordon who is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.
Several industry groups praised the bill, saying it will help boost U.S. competiveness and help American students better compete in the global economy.
"The investments that the America COMPETES Act makes in math and science education will go a long way to helping ensure America has the highly skilled workforce it needs to compete in the global economy," Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, co-executive director of the industry coalition Compete America, said in a statement.
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation President Robert Atkinson highlighted several key provisions in the bill, including language offered by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., that would direct the Obama administration to develop a national competitiveness and innovation strategy.
"It is welcome news that this critical legislation is finally on its way to the President's desk," Atkinson said in a news release. "In one of the final votes of the 111th Congress, lawmakers affirmed that innovation is not a partisan issue."
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