The House agreed to the Senate amendment to HR 5116 on 12/21/2010. We’ll discuss the implications of this in more detail after the Xmas holiday.
The Senate unanimously passed H.R. 5116 on Friday 12/17/2010, after first adopting an amendment in the nature of a substitute. As opposed to the version of H.R. 5116 that was passed in the House, the language of the amended version contains no provisions to reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). As amended and passed by the Senate, the language of H.R. 5116 contains no references to nanotechnology at all.
The amended bill, basically a reduced version of S. 3605 as reported out of committee on 12/10/2010, reduces the amounts appropriated for various agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, from $84 billion to $43 billion over a three year period.
Having been passed by the Senate in an amended version, H.R. 5116 must now go back to the House for another vote to accept the Senate’s amendment. If this happens, then the bill will go to President Obama to be signed into law. However, if the House disagrees with the amendment, the bill would be sent to a Conference Committee, composed of Senators and Representatives appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, charged with the task of creating a comprise version that would be acceptable to both the House and Senate. It is possible that an amendment reauthorizing NNI could be adopted during House debate or in a Conference Committee; however, considering that the House is approaching adjournment, and that Rep. Bart Gordon, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and author of the House version of H.R. 5116, has endorsed the bill, stating that "It keeps our basic research agencies on a doubling path, it continues to invest in high-risk, high-reward energy technology development, it will help improve STEM education, and it will help unleash American innovation", it is likely that the House will vote to agree to the Senate’s amendment.
Rep. Ralph Hall, currently the Ranking Member of the Committee, stated that ". . . the bill that passed today spends too much money, authorizes duplicative programs, and shifts focus away from the bill’s original intent." Rep. Hall will be Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress.
Not having been reauthorized in this bill, the future of NNI is unclear.