Committee Democrats Oppose FIRST Act

May 28, 2014
Committee Democrats Oppose FIRST Act

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology completed the markup of H.R. 4186, Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST).  Last week, the Committee began consideration of the FIRST Act.   Roll call votes on amendments and on final passage were delayed until today.

Congress passed bipartisan Competes legislation in 2007 and 2010 which laid out bold policy directions for U.S. scientific research and innovation.  The FIRST Act attempts to replace parts of the Competes legislation, but the bill has numerous problems that make it unacceptable for Committee Democrats.  H.R. 4186 passed the Committee as amended on a party-line recorded vote.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement on H.R. 4186, “The FIRST Act falls far short of the legacy of Competes.  Where the Competes Act was clearly focused on spurring innovation, the FIRST Act seems preoccupied with questioning the motives of America’s premiere science agency and the integrity of the scientists it funds.  Where the Competes Act focused on broadly lifting America’s commitment to the sciences, the FIRST Act instead seeks to pit different scientific disciplines against one another.  Where the Competes Act sought to provide a clear vision and stability to our science agencies, the FIRST Act instead provides them with a year’s worth of authorization at levels below those provided by our own Appropriations Committee.  In short, the FIRST Act is an opportunity lost.” – View her opening statement in its entirety here.

Democrats offered numerous amendments to improve the bill.  View the list of amendments and the results of each vote here.

Ms. Johnson introduced into the record a number of letters and statements opposing the FIRST Act including from The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The National Science Board, The Science Coalition, The Task Force on American Innovation, The Association of American Universities, The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, The Coalition for National Science Funding, The Union of Concerned Scientists, The American Geophysical Union, The American Physical Society, The American Society for Civil Engineers, The Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, The Consortium of Social Science Associations, The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition, the Open Access Working Group, and the LEARN Coalition. She also highlighted the difference in support between the Competes Act of 2010 and the FIRST Act.  Competes was endorsed by four university associations; thirteen business associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers; 26 scientific and professional societies; 37 additional associations; 576 private companies; and 96 major colleges and universities.  As far as Committee Democrats know, the FIRST Act has received no endorsements for the bill as a whole. View opposition to FIRST and support for Competes 2010 here.

Ms. Johnson said after the markup, “The America Competes Act is one of the crowning achievements of the Science Committee.  It sought to ensure our commitment to maintaining our scientific and technological leadership now and long into the future.  What we have done today with the FIRST Act not only fails to advance our science and innovation enterprise, it actually damages it. The Democratic Members of this Committee made every effort to improve this misguided and flawed piece of legislation and we were rebuffed at every turn.  This is a sad day for this Committee.”