U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today praised the signing into law of the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act, authorizing $43 billion over three years to double funding for science initiatives. This legislation is a culmination of over two years of work by Alexander and others to protect America’s brainpower advantage through math and science education and scientific research.
“This is the prime model of bipartisan cooperation on a massively important issue to every citizen of our country,” said Alexander. “The America COMPETES Act is a direct response to the challenge our country faces in keeping our brainpower advantage so our good jobs don’t go overseas to places like India and China. The President, the Senate Republican and Democratic Leadership, and Tennessee Congressmen Bart Gordon and Zach Wamp have joined me every step of the way to advance this important bill, and I join them in praising this final step.”
The bill is a legislative response to recommendations contained in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report. Two years ago, this report was drafted at the request of Alexander and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) – with the encouragement of Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) – when they asked, “What are the 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?”
The America COMPETES Act puts research programs at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy on a path to double their budgets during the next decade. It 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.
“Senator Bingaman and I asked the brightest Americans what we needed to do to stay competitive, and after two years we have done it,” said Alexander. “Now, we need to fund it.”
The America COMPETES Act (S. 761) passed the Senate in April by a vote of 88-8. It was jointly introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and ultimately attracted 69 bipartisan cosponsors. The bill was based on proposals in the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act – which Alexander introduced last year with Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Bingaman (D-NM) and Mikulski (D-MD), and which garnered 70 cosponsors evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – as well as another version of the bill that was sponsored last Congress by then Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (R-TN). The House version of the America COMPETES Act – known as the 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2272) – was introduced in May by Gordon (D-TN-6).
Alexander sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is a former U.S. Secretary of Education.
Praise of the America COMPETES Act
President Bush: “The bill I will sign today will help ensure that we do remain the most competitive and innovative nation in the world. I thank members of Congress from both parties who worked hard to secure its passage. I particularly want to thank Senators Pete Domenici, Jeff Bingaman, Lamar Alexander and John Ensign, as well as Congressman Bart Gordon and Vern Ehlers. You know, this bill shows that we can work together to make sure we're a competitive nation.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): “This is the end of a long haul to do a bill that’s extremely important. This is [a] bipartisan bill and there are a number of people who have worked extremely hard on this, but no one harder than Senators Bingaman and Alexander.”
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “Senator Alexander kept pushing others forward, but in fact we all knew who the real leader on our side was on this issue. He, in a very selfless way, helped move a bipartisan group together to form this important legislation, and I want to commend Senator Alexander in particular for the role that he played in all of this.”