U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act, a legislative response to recommendations contained in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report and the Council on Competitiveness’ “Innovate America” report.
“This legislation is 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. “There is no more important piece of legislation in Congress this year because it goes to the heart of how we keep our high standard of living.”
In an unusual procedural move, the Senate leaders will not refer the bill to a Senate committee, but place it directly on the Senate calendar, ready for a full debate.
“Lamar has been the driving force behind this legislation to make sure the best new jobs are created here in the United States,” said McConnell. “As a former Secretary of Education, Lamar knows how to craft a bill to strengthen educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math for students of all ages.”
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.
“This is pro-growth legislation,” said Alexander. “At a time when we are spending $2 billion a week in Iraq and $7 billion a week on our national debt, this is a small pro-growth investment to build an economy that would help us keep our high standard of living and pay the bills for urgent national needs.”
Additional sponsors of the bill include Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), John Ensign (R-NV), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Several sections of the National Competitiveness Investment 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, and which had 70 cosponsors – 35 Republicans and 35 Democrats. The PACE Acts implemented the recommendations contained in the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report which came 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?”