After months of behind the scenes work, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is publically moving forward with its effort to reauthorize a broad science innovation and education law, the America COMPETES Act. The draft legislation, however, has not yet been made public and was not shared with Democrats on the Committee.
The Energy Subcommittee held a hearing in late October to consider the provisions that would affect the Department of Energy Office of Science. The Enabling Innovation for Science, Technology, and Energy in America Act, or EINSTEIN America Act as the bill is now called, would increase funding for basic energy science by 1.7 percent above current levels within two years.
Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Energy Subcommittee, said at the hearing that the bill may look like an increase for the Office of Science, but funding would be cut once inflation is accounted for.
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed concerns that the legislation would shift funds away from climate research within the Office of Science. The bill would direct the Department of Energy to prioritize work on biological systems and genomics sciences instead. All three witnesses who testified at the hearing also opposed the language in the majority’s bill to deemphasize climate research.
“The ‘EINSTEIN America Act’ prioritizes science activities within the department,” said Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “This ensures that American taxpayer dollars are better utilized and enables labs to do more with less.”
Chairman Smith also said that the bill is a “discussion draft” and a starting point for future discussions. Representative Johnson stated: “there is common ground” between Smith’s draft bill and the competing bill she is sponsoring.
The America COMPETES Act was enacted six years ago and authorized increased funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, as well as the National Science Foundation and the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. New funding levels were set in 2010, but that legislation passed the House without the broad bipartisan support of the original law.
The House Science Committee is soon expected to consider policies related to the National Science Foundation. The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing this week.
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