House Science Committee Postpones Completion of FIRST Act Markup

May 22, 2014 Issues: America COMPETES Act
House Science Committee Postpones Completion of FIRST Act Markup

(Washington, DC) - Yesterday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee marked up the FIRST Act, legislation that has been widely criticized by industry and the research and university communities.  Democratic Members offered numerous amendments in an effort to improve the bill. Many of those amendments would help strengthen our competitiveness by authorizing or reauthorizing critical programs to spur innovation and secure the future of American manufacturing. Democratic Members also offered amendments to strip the underlying bill of a number of provisions they believe attack scientists, undermine the peer-review process at NSF, and inhibit the normal advance of science through both incremental and potentially transformative research, as well as through the critically important replication and verification of earlier work.

Ranking Member Johnson said, “The FIRST Act contains many harmful and chilling provisions, including Sections 106, 115, and 117 of the bill. These provisions are consistent with the Majority’s year-long assault on the National Science Foundation and the researchers supported by the agency.  In parallel to their legislative initiative, the Majority continues to pursue unprecedented formal requests for thousands of pages of confidential peer-review materials on current and past grants funded by the Foundation, without any allegation of waste, fraud, or abuse. Having anointed themselves subject-matter experts on the grants in question, the Majority seems content to tear at the very fabric of what makes the NSF merit-review process the gold standard for the world.”

Democratic Members requested recorded votes on 15 amendments. The Chairman postponed roll call votes on all of those amendments and on final passage until next week.  Rep. Johnson said, “The postponement of further consideration of the FIRST Act provides an opportunity for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to step back from this bill before a vote on final passage so that we can have a ‘reset’ and start again down a more productive path.  I hope that they will take the time to listen to the many voices in industry and academia who have grave concerns about this legislation before they decide whether or not to vote for it.  At the end of the day, having no bill emerge from Committee would be better than passing a bad bill.”