The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly approved the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act, “The biggest piece of legislation in Congress this year, because it goes right to the heart of how we keep our high standard of living,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who managed the bill on the Senate floor.
“This legislation’s broad scope, creative approach and uniquely bipartisan support represent the best way for our country to keep its brainpower advantage, and our brainpower advantage is the way we keep good paying jobs from going overseas,” Alexander said. “It is always a privilege to serve in the U.S. Senate but it is especially a privilege this week. After two years of working across party lines, we have produced legislation that will help Americans keep our brainpower advantage in the global economy. This is only one of the issues that are too big for one party to solve; hopefully it will be a model for others.
Jointly introduced this session of Congress by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the bill – which ultimately attracted 65 bipartisan cosponsors -- focuses on three primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving U.S. innovation in the 21st Century: (1) increasing research investment, (2) strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure. It is a legislative response to recommendations contained in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report and the Council on Competitiveness’ “Innovate America” report. Senate Majority Leader called it a “Feather in the cap of bipartisanship.”
“This is pro-growth legislation,” Alexander said. “At a time when we are spending $2 billion a week in Iraq and $7 billion a week on our national debt, the America COMPETES Act is a small but key investment in growing the economy so it can continue to support our high standard of living and pay the bills for urgent national needs.”
Several sections of the America COMPETES Act are derived from proposals in the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act, which Alexander introduced with Senators Domenici, Bingaman and Mikulski early in 2005, with 70 cosponsors evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The PACE Acts were also based on the recommendations of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, which came about in response to a question Alexander and Bingaman asked the National Academies in May 2005: “What are the ten top actions that federal policy makers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so the United States can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the global community of the 21st century?” Retired Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norman R. Augustine led a distinguished panel of experts in responding to that question with an extensive report including 20 specific recommendations, available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “Sen. Alexander played a key role in passing this critical legislation to maintain America’s competitive edge in the global economy. Thanks to his hard work, this bipartisan bill ensures that America will continue to lead the world in innovation and discovery, and that our children will have the necessary math and science skills to keep America at the forefront of exploration and invention into the 21st Century.”
Alexander sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is a former U.S. Secretary of Education.