Floor Debate Begins on Legislation to Improve U.S. Economic Competitiveness

Alexander to Manage Bill He Has Pushed for Two Years

Posted on April 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. Senate began debate today on the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act, a sweeping investment in preserving America’s “brainpower advantage.” “This may be the most important piece of legislation the Congress considers in this two year session. When you look at America’s major advantage, it is our brainpower,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was one of the originators of the legislation and has pushed it for the past two years. “No other country has had the broad system of education that we have. No other country has the large number of great research universities that the US has, or the great laboratories. And as a result, no other country has come close – especially since World War II – to turning its brainpower advantage into jobs and dollars and a high standard of living for such a large number of people.” “The rest of the world sees that,” Alexander added, “and they say, why can’t we do this, in China, or India, or Ireland. Which is why we don’t want to take our brainpower advantage for granted, because we can’t.” Noting the heavy financial burdens facing the next generation of Americans, such as Social Security, Medicare, and the national debt, Alexander called the America COMPETES Act “an investment in the great engine that creates all the money that pays all the bills. We talk a lot about outsourcing jobs – this is the way to keep good new jobs in the United States. As governor of Tennessee, I discovered that the most pro-growth action we could take was to invest in our colleges, universities, and research facilities. This may be the most important piece of legislation the Congress considers in this two year session.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are the lead sponsors of the America COMPETES Act (S. 761). Senator Alexander joined both leaders in introducing the bill last month, and it has already attracted more than 50 cosponsors. It was brought directly to the Senate floor for action with the blessing of several major committees of jurisdiction. The bill is a legislative response to recommendations contained in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report (available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463) and the Council on Competitiveness’ “Innovate America” report. The National Academies report was drafted in response to a joint request from Senators Alexander and Bingaman for the top actions that federal policymakers could take to ensure that the U.S. can successfully compete and prosper in the 21st century global economy. The legislation is based on a bill introduced at the end of last year by the Senate leaders and focuses on two primary areas important to maintaining and improving U.S. innovation in the 21st Century: (1) increasing research investment and (2) strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school. Reid and McConnell praised Alexander’s leadership on the America COMPETES Act. “It was Senator Alexander who, two years ago, along with Senator Bingaman, asked the National Academy of Sciences the question that led to their recommendations, and sparked this entire process,” McConnell said. Reid credited Alexander and Bingaman for “coming up with this idea.”