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Perspective: Split Congress requires bipartisan work to advance tech

November 17, 2022
By: Jason Rittenberg

Enough races have now been called in the 2022 midterm elections to confirm that the Senate will remain under Democratic party control while the House will switch to the Republican party. If any legislation is going to advance to the White House over the next two years, the parties are going to need to work together — both across and within each chamber (where Senate filibuster rules and House politics are likely to make bipartisan votes a necessity to passing bills).

Federal technology and innovation policy has a history of support from both parties. Further, there has been strong recognition across the government that America’s global economic competitiveness and national security are both intrinsically tied to the development of new technologies and the integration of these innovations across the economy. As evidence of this support in the current Congress: the CHIPS and Science Act passed the Senate (64 “yea” votes) and the House (243 “yea” votes) with bipartisan support, and funding for SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council priorities has champions on both sides of the aisle — a major factor in seeing consistent increases for Build to Scale, Regional Innovation Clusters and the Federal and State Technology Partnership programs.

Much of the work that determines what tech-based economic development policies will be advanced in the next congress will happen among the science and small business committees. As noted in last week’s Digest, four of the eight leaders for these committees (i.e., chair and ranking members), at a minimum, will be new next year. The priorities and interests of these new leaders will dictate much of what is prioritized for committee hearings and votes. These leadership positions are also critical to helping TBED policies attach to larger legislation that may pass, such as an omnibus funding bill or defense authorization, as committee leaders from both parties are typically asked to approve the inclusion of any policies in their committee’s jurisdiction being attached to larger bills. These determinations will be made early in 2023.

The appropriations committees are critical to the funding of existing TBED programs — including the recently authorized Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs. One of the most important decisions that the committees (as well as chamber leadership) need to make is the overall size of the federal budget, including the split between defense and non-defense programs, and then how much funding is available to each subcommittee. These decisions are crucial determinants of the availability of funding for TBED. The Senate will see new leaders at the top of the committee, and there could be further changes at the subcommittee level. The House will, at a minimum, see the chair and ranking member of each subcommittee flip, due to the change in party control.

The topline budget figures are not the only way broader political decisions affect the environment for science and technology policy, however, as floor time for votes and willingness to collaborate can be affected by any number of broader issues. Time spent debating the debt ceiling, a focus on politically-charged investigations, or an early start to the 2024 election cycle could all affect the opportunity to pass new laws.

Technology and innovation policies have rarely seemed more central to America’s overall economic and security interests than they do today. During the next congress, it is critical that House and Senate leaders continue to prioritize science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship — topics that SSTI’s polling shows that Americans, regardless of party, support — over fractious, partisan fights. Given the divided nature of the next congress, a collaborative approach is the only way forward.

elections, congress