Washington Is Broken: Partisan Legislation to Authorize American Research Is the Wrong Approach | Commentary

We’ve heard it for several years now: Washington is broken. Progress has ground to a halt due to partisan politics. Partisanship dominates the headlines for many of the issues that come before Congress, be it immigration, tax reform, gun control or climate change. Many would expect these particular topics to incite more divisive rhetoric than others. For most of my colleagues, these issues represent sincere disagreements and heartfelt positions on which they campaigned and promised voters that they wouldn’t compromise.

But there are many areas where the American public would expect Congress to work together. I have served on the House Science Committee for 22 years and over the past four years, I have been the ranking Democrat. During those 22 years, I have seen some of the best examples of what happens when we come together as lawmakers to work toward solutions. We have funded amazing breakthroughs in energy development, pushed the bounds of space exploration, created a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, and we twice passed and signed into law a bipartisan America Competes authorization — legislation intended to ensure that America’s research enterprise remains the world’s leader. All these efforts started by simply reaching across the aisle and building support for good ideas.

This week, Republicans on the Science Committee are ignoring that tradition and moving forward on a partisan research bill that is erroneously named America Competes. HR 1806 is an America Competes bill in name only. It does nothing to further our nation’s scientific and innovation enterprise. The bill fails to garner the bipartisan support or embody any of the collaborative characteristics of the two previous comprehensive authorizations. In fact, the first time I or other Democrats even saw the bill was when the chairman introduced it to the House on the same day he announced the legislation would be rushed to markup the day after members returned from recess.

There is no simple fix for the partisanship that has a stranglehold on Washington, but it starts with the simple desire to work together. This type of progress however, takes leadership. I am saddened to see the Republican majority dismissing the opportunity to work together on the most important driver of our economic future: U.S. research and development. This traditionally bipartisan legislation has now fallen victim to a broken Washington.

The door of my office is always open to any of my colleagues who are willing to negotiate in good faith on any bill before Congress. That offer has always extended to the chairman of the Science Committee as well. Let’s start over and do what the American people want us to do. I have introduced, along with Democratic colleagues, an America Competes bill that is in line with many expert recommendations and has the support of the scientific community. Let’s come to the table with your bill and mine and find a compromise. I urge the chairman: Let’s work together to provide thoughtful, bipartisan guidance and support for our nation’s research enterprise.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, is ranking member of House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. She also serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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