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Higher Ed Groups Submit Conference Recommendations for Competitiveness Bills

March 25, 2022

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CONTACTS
Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
For Media Inquiries

The AAMC joined over 20 higher education organizations in a March 22 letter to congressional leaders outlining priorities for the upcoming conference negotiation on competitiveness legislation.

Specifically, the two chambers intend to work out differences between two bills aiming to address global research competitiveness and security and domestic manufacturing: the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA, S. 1260) [refer to Washington Highlights, June 11, 2021] and the House-passed America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 4].

In the letter, the organizations thanked the members for working to enhance the nation’s research competitiveness, including through proposed increases for the National Science Foundation. The groups also highlighted concerns with several research security-related provisions of the bills.

“We believe some of these provisions would have long-term, detrimental impacts on the ability of colleges and universities to work and compete with international partners to address issues of global importance. … Our institutions take seriously threats to research security and the concerns raised by federal policymakers regarding undue foreign influence and illegal technology transfer,” said the organizations in highlighting the efforts of the Biden administration [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 7].

The letter specifically highlighted concerns with provisions related to:

  • A USICA proposal for the U.S. Treasury Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review gifts or contracts over $1 million to institutions of higher education.
  • A new Sec. 124 of the Higher Education Act (HEA) that would create a reporting requirement for gifts and contracts to individual faculty and staff, with versions in both bills.
  • Reducing the existing HEA Sec. 117 reporting threshold of $250,000 in foreign gifts and contracts annually. The America COMPETES Act did include text that would exclude investments to support clinical trials in the calculation of the foreign gifts calculation.

The letter also noted support for a House-passed provision to exempt foreign nationals with advanced degrees in science, engineering, technology, and math — including medicine —from existing numerical caps on green cards.

The Senate began procedural votes during the week of March 21 to tee up the conference process. Leading senators have indicated an interest in finalizing the work of the conference negotiators and holding votes on a final package by July 4.

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