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March 02, 2006

House Republicans Ignore R&D in Innovation and Competitiveness Bill

Demonstrating how much work remains to be done with the House Republican leadership, the House Republican "High-tech Task Force" led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) today introduced its "Innovation and Competitiveness Act," which wholly ignores the central recommendation of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, two bi-partisan bills in the Senate, the National Academies "Gathering Storm" report, and just about every high-tech industry association (pdf), by not including any commitment to increase funding for fundamental research in the physical sciences.

Instead, Goodlatte's bill

is a comprehensive piece of legislation to get Congress engaged in the business of promoting innovation in America by creating additional incentives for private individuals and businesses to create and rollout new products and services so that America will remain the world leader in innovation," said Goodlatte. "This legislation also recognizes that government sometimes is the problem - not the answer to the problem - so it also addresses government-imposed hurdles to innovation."
Here's what's included:
  • Business activity tax simplification;
  • Attorney accountability changes;
  • An Innovation Scholarship Program;
  • "Promotion of R&D" by making permanent the research credit; increase in rates of alternative incremental credit; alternative simplified credit for qualified research expenses'
  • Health care choice provisions;
  • and, Health IT promotion.


The bill was actually previewed yesterday at a press conference of the High Tech Working Group attended by a whole slew of Republican House members and the entire Republican House leadership, including Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and new majority leader John Boehner (R-OH). Among the attendees, the only one who mentioned anything about the need to increase research funding in the physical sciences was Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). Boehlert emphasized that this innovation package wouldn't be the only one moving through the House this summer and that he would make sure research funding was addressed in the innovation/competitiveness bills before his committee and in the deliberations of the appropriators this year.

Still, this has very bad "optics," as they say. The House leadership is clearly behind an innovation plan that bears little resemblance to the one introduced by the President and endorsed by Republicans in the Senate. The House Republican leadership has now had two opportunities to be supportive of bipartisan innovation efforts molded on the recommendations of the NAS and others, and has chosen not to be supportive both times. The first was Majority Leader Boehner's biting response to a Democratic innovation event held last month, which we covered here.

It will be interesting to see how members of the high-tech industry associations, for whom this Goodlatte plan is ostensibly for, react to this approach. They were, after all, very much supportive of the President's ACI, the Senate bills, and the Democratic Innovation Agenda (which are all very similar). They've gone above and beyond the call of duty in making increased support for research a priority in their own advocacy efforts. But they're needed again. It's time for those companies who believe in this cause to pick up the phone and tell the Republican leadership what's missing from their plan.

Posted by PeterHarsha at March 2, 2006 06:13 PM
Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | FY07 Appropriations | Funding | Policy