A bill to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy Office of Science, and laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology passed the House of Representatives with only the support of Republican lawmakers. The final vote was 217 to 205. All members of the Democratic Caucus who were present along with twenty-three Republicans voted against H.R. 1806.
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, presented the bill as a “pro-science, fiscally responsible bill.” He stated “Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have you believe that the only way you can be pro-science is to spend more taxpayer money than the Budget Control Act allows. Real priorities require making choices. H.R. 1806 proves that we can set priorities, make tough choices and still invest more in breakthrough research and innovation.”
H.R. 1806 would increase the total NSF funding authorization, but make deep cuts to social science and geosciences research.
Twelve amendments to the “America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015” were debated, several of which were adopted.
An amendment offered by Representative Smith restored proposed cuts to the EPSCoR program and Graduate Research Fellowship. The increased funding came at the expense of research funding for the Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorates. Other amendments that were made to the legislation include encouraging female entrepreneurs, a program to incorporate robotics in K-12 education, and science education grants for Hispanic serving institutions.
An effort by Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) to strip a requirement that NSF funding be in the “national interest” failed. Foster is a physicist and one of only three Ph.D. scientists in Congress. The amendment was opposed by fellow Democrat Dan Lipinski (D-IL), who holds a Ph.D. in political science. Lipinski stated that the section was supported by NSF Director France Cordova and was the result of bipartisan negotiations.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill. “The Administration believes that H.R. 1806 would be damaging to the Administration’s actions to move American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth forward through a world-leading science, technology, and innovation enterprise.”