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Congress begins work on $3.5 trillion human infrastructure, includes $45 billion for House science to allocate

August 12, 2021
By: Jason Rittenberg

Early on Wednesday, the Senate passed a budget resolution that will serve as the framework for a human infrastructure bill. The current proposal is for $3.5 trillion in spending. This legislation, should it pass, seems likely to include substantial funding for regional innovation. More specifically, the Senate’s plans indicate that funding would support Regional Technology Hubs and other components of the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). 

The budget resolution includes high-level directions to congressional committees on the amount of spending they will be allowed to propose within the $3.5 trillion.

  • Senate commerce would have about $83 billion, and House science would have about $45 billion. While these committees are counterparts in many ways, the large difference is likely due to the Senate committee’s jurisdiction over transportation issues, which belong to a different committee in the House.
  • Senate small business would receive $25 billion, and House small business would see $17.5 billion. The difference between these levels seems due to the Senate committee also having primary jurisdiction over some small business issues overseen by other committees in the House.

Senate Leader Chuck Schumer published a letter to Senate Democrats providing instructions for how committees should approach this funding. Several proposals related to regional innovation stand out: 

  • Research, manufacturing, economic development and the National Science Foundation (NSF) research and technology directorate (within Senate commerce, science and transportation);
  • Financing for domestic manufacturing of clean energy and auto supply chain technologies, and research infrastructure for Department of Energy National Labs (within Senate energy and water);
  • Clean Energy Technology Accelerator and Economic Development Administration programs (within Senate environment and public works);
  • Tuition-free community college, investments in Minority-Serving Institutions and workforce development (within Senate health, education, labor and pensions); and,
  • Small business access to credit, investments and markets (within Senate small business).

Schumer’s instructions to Senate commerce clearly references authorities that are proposed in USICA, which would not only authorize the NSF research and technology directorate, but would also create a Regional Technology Hubs program, increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and allow for new Manufacturing USA institutes. The new authorities within USICA amount to more than $100 billion, and so the reconciliation instructions propose partial funding of the legislation — but a substantial investment nonetheless.

Due to Senate rules, the reconciliation process cannot typically be used to fund programs that have not been authorized previously. USICA has passed the Senate but has not yet passed the House. In order for the Regional Technology Hubs to be funded through the reconciliation process, the House and Senate must pass some version of USICA with the hubs before reconciliation.

SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council has been active in working to improve and support the USICA in both chambers, and SSTI President and CEO Dan Berglund testified about these programs before House science earlier this year. SSTI will continue to work with the relevant committees and congressional leadership to reinforce the benefit that these new authorities and funding would have for regional economies throughout the country. 

To learn more about this legislation or SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council, contact Jason Rittenberg (rittenberg@ssti.org | 614-901-1690).

congress, funding, federal budget, infrastructure, legislation