Republican leaders in the U.S House of Representatives announced a plan Wednesday to push legislation designed to make the U.S. more competitive in world markets, including a bill that includes a research and development (R&D) tax credit and incentives for health care IT.
Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, promised to push an "innovation" agenda, including the Innovation and Competitiveness Act, introduced Wednesday by Republican Representatives Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Lamar Smith of Texas.
The bill focuses on providing educational incentives for math and science students and reducing "abusive" lawsuits against U.S. businesses, in addition to an R&D tax credit and incentives for health-care facilities to improve their use of IT. Neither Goodlatte's, Smith's or Hastert's offices had immediate information on the details of the bill.
During a press conference, Hastert praised the House Republican High Tech Working Group, led by Goodlatte and Smith. "The most important thing about a working group is, of course, work," said Hastert, of Illinois. "This group has not just talked the talk, it has walked the walk when it comes to getting the job done for the high tech community and the American people."
A string of Republican House members talked about the need for legislation to improve U.S. competitiveness in the face of competition from countries such as India and China. Some lawmakers talked about a need for math and science scholarships; others talked about funding increases for the National Science Foundation and other government research agencies.
Although the U.S. economy is still the best in the world, other countries are "breathing down our neck," said Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Science Committee. "We have to act now, or we're going to pay later," he said.
Smith, sponsor of bills intended to reduce the number of lawsuits against small businesses, said Congress needs to complete work on a bill that would allow judges to access the court costs to a plaintiff in a "frivolous" lawsuit. Smith's past legislation would also limit the jurisdictions where a lawsuit could be filed.
"These lawsuits are nothing but legalized extortion," Smith said.
Tech groups praised House Republicans for focusing on technology and innovation. Hewlett-Packard Co. praised them for promising to focus on expanding a R&D tax credit, and the Information Technology Industry Council applauded Republicans for identifying innovation as a top priority.
But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Republican plan lacks several key elements of a Democratic innovation plan released last year. The Republican plan doesn't deal with the "digital divide" in broadband, and it doesn't focus on U.S. energy independence, she said in a statement.