WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, to consider the following measures and nominations:
- S.82, Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act; Sponsors: Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
- S.116, COVID-19 Home Safety Act; Sponsors: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS)
- S.140, Blue Globe Act; Sponsors: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- S.316, Fly Safe and Healthy Act; Sponsors: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rick Scott (R-FL)
- S.497 , American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act; Sponsors: Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- S.516 , Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act; Sponsors: Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
- S.1037, Manufacturing Hub Website; Sponsors: Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Todd Young (R-IN)
- S.1106, Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act; Sponsors: Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
- S.1260, Endless Frontier Act; Sponsors: Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Todd Young (R-IN)
10. S.1289, Prescott/Marine Mammal; Sponsors: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
11. Nomination of Leslie B. Kiernan, of Maryland, to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce (PN248)
12. Nomination of Lina M. Khan, of New York, to be Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (PN254)
Executive Session Details:
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
10:00 A.M. EDT
Executive Session #7
This markup will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building 106. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*In order to maintain physical distancing as advised by the Office of the Attending Physician, seating for credentialed press will be limited throughout the course of the markup. Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this markup via the live stream.
Chair Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Executive Session
May 12, 2021
Cantwell: The Committee will come to order. I thank my colleagues for their indulgence on this important markup and at the outset, I want to express my gratitude to Senator Wicker and his team for working so diligently on the important Endless Frontiers Act that is part of the markup.
I want to say that, you know, coming from the Pacific Northwest and the State of Washington, I certainly get how important information age technology is and certainly understand our investment in research and development. We've had more than 230 amendments filed to this bill, and our teams worked diligently over the past week, and worked out or accepted almost 100 of those amendments. So I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Those amendments include work by Senator Klobuchar, Blumenthal, Schatz, Markey, Peters, Baldwin, Sinema, Rosen, Tester, Lujan, Warnock, and Hickenlooper, and I know on the other side of the aisle from Senator Wicker, Thune, Blunt, Cruz, Fisher, Sullivan, Blackburn, Lee, Capito, Scott, Lummis.
So I think all of them for their work: Senator Capito on creating an NSF grant program to fund hands-on STEM learning opportunities; Senator Hickenlooper offered an amendment with Ranking Member Wicker improving the coordination--language that draws in the Department of Energy; Senator Peters and Thune offered an amendment that was accepted on artificial intelligence; Senators Blunt, Lummis, Cruz, Wicker, and Blackburn offered improvements to key technology areas; Senator Sullivan offered an amendment that Ranking Member Wicker and I accepted to substitute, requiring the National Institute of Standards to assist universities in strengthening cybersecurity efforts, something very much in the news and something our Committee has dealt with many times; Senator Cruz offered an amendment that Ranking Member Wicker and I accepted on the NSF Chief Diversity Officer; and Senator Warnock offered an amendment that Ranking Member Wicker and I accepted substituting a capacity building program for minority serving institutions, which will help grow incredible drivers of STEM diversity; and Senator Blumenthal offered an amendment we accepted today to combat sexual harassment in science; and Senator Baldwin offered an amendment that we also accepted, along with Senator Wicker, on substitutes on the manufacturing extension program.
To say that our colleagues have been working diligently on this issue is an understatement. And I know that the pace at which all of this has happened has been very challenging to members so I just really want to say we appreciate their indulgence in this. I think the reason why we're moving ahead and working so diligently on this is that the race for innovation is happening around the globe. People in an information age who are hungry, developing economies are taking some of the best science and information that have been created in the United States of America, and deploying it. We now need to look at our R&D infrastructure and what we in the United States are doing to be more nimble, to make sure that this technology is used to help our supply chains to grow jobs of the future, and to continue to be the leader in research and development around the world. So very glad that my colleagues have spent this time, and again, appreciate Senator Wicker and his team on this.
The bill markup also includes work by Senator Scott and I on the Fly Safe and Healthy Act. This legislation would establish a pilot program on temperature check screenings and help us implement things at our airports for overseas travelers coming into the United States. The pilot program promotes safe air travel and I appreciate Senator Scott's long work and leadership on this issue, and appreciate the Ensuring Health and Safety in our Skies from Senators Markey, Wicker, Blumenthal also on the markup today. This bill would establish a temporary Joint Task Force among the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to address impacts of COVID. And our final aviation bill today is Advanced Air Mobility Coordination from Senators Moran and Sinema. This would establish an interagency working group to support the growth of air mobility industry air transportation systems that move people and cargo using innovative aircraft design like vertical takeoff and landing technologies and pilot programs.
We also considered a number of bills on the markup today making policy related to ocean and ocean stewardship. Today the Committee will consider the Mammal Research and Response act of ‘21. This bill would reauthorize and expand the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Grant Program and include assistance for marine mammals that are tangled in debris. I appreciate my colleague Senator Murkowski for her support on this. And the bill also directs NOAA to establish the Marine Mammal Health Map and Program.
Staying with the oceans theme, we're marking up the Blue Globe Act that Senator Whitehouse and Murkowski have sponsored. This bill improves coordination and collaboration of our oceans, coastal regions, and Great Lakes on research and development, and I know how important this is to our state. And our final oceans bill, American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act from Senator Sullivan and myself, this bill would create an advisory body comprised of fishermen and other seafood representatives from NOAA’s SK grant program, which funds developments in new markets for American seafoods and helps American fishermen be competitive in a global market.
Also on the market is the COVID-19 Home Safe Act from Senators Klubuchar and Moran, this bill would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to report and make publicly available information on the effects of COVID-19 public health emergencies and injuries, and deaths from consumers.
Also before us today is the Manufacturing.gov Act from Senators Peters and Young. This would require the Department of Commerce to have a manufacturing.gov hub on their website to be a primary source of federal manufacturing programs, and it will help focus on technology, research, and workforce development.
So finally, we have two nominees on the markup today. The first is Leslie Kiernan of Maryland to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce. Ms. Kiernan has decades of experience working with corporations and boards and nonprofits, and I wholeheartedly support her nomination. I also support the nomination of Lina Khan for a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. She’s an associate professor at Columbia Law School, where she teaches and writes about antitrust law and infrastructure industry law issues, and she previously served as Commissioner to Rohit Chopra at the FTC.
So I know this is a busy agenda this morning and so I will now turn to Ranking Member Wicker for his comments.
Ranking Member Roger Wicker
Today, the committee does have an ambitious agenda but clearly the most significant legislation in front of us this morning is the Endless Frontier Act including numerous amendments which I hope will improve the bill. Senator Young a member of this committee is a cosponsor of this legislation along with the distinguished democratic leader of the Senate, and I thank him for his tireless work during a frankly frustrating process.
During the Committee’s hearing in mid-April, I expressed strong reservations about the Endless Frontier Act. After long hours of work on a bipartisan basis, the Cantwell-Wicker substitute amendment takes steps to address many of my concerns and those of other members of the committee.
The substitute improves the introduced bill in the following ways:
The substitute preserves the core basic research mission of the National Science Foundation. Driven by curiosity, basic research fuels innovation across every sector of our economy and society. For instance, the NSF funded basic research into bacteria found in Yellowstone National Park’s thermal pools. This led to the discovery that the bacteria’s enzymes allowed for rapid copying of genetic material created an opportunity to turn research into a useful product. The ensuing technology development process eventually created the PCR test widely used to test for COVID-19.
The example of the PCR test shows the importance preserving and enhancing the NSF’s position as the worldwide gold standard for basic research. Our substitute amendment increases funding for the NSF at a manageable rate, allowing more meritorious proposals to receive funding. We also ensure the new Technology and Innovation Directorate proposed by the Endless Frontier Act fits appropriately inside the NSF this should accelerate the pace of developing technology without undermining the core basic research mission.
The Cantwell-Wicker substitute also improves the underlying bill by including strong coordination measures to ensure that programs at the new Technology Directorate do not duplicate the R&D programs of other Federal agencies such as the Department of Energy. The amendment establishes an interagency working group led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to identify areas of duplication and adjudicate conflicts between Federal R&D agencies. The substitute also requires explicit coordination between the NSF and the Department of Energy. These coordination provisions are designed to ensure the wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars by preventing bureaucratic turf wars which can slow down innovation.
We also must ensure that these investments are protected from abuse by foreign governments. I am glad that the Cantwell-Wicker substitute includes bold measures to enhance research security. The substitute amendment establishes a research security office at the NSF, prohibits Federal employees from participation in so-called foreign government talent programs, and prohibits taxpayer funded research from going to researchers who are part of Chinese talent programs.
Finally, as we look toward increasing global competitiveness, America can maintain our leadership over China without a sustained national effort. For too long, we have relied on a handful of states and major universities to power the nation’s innovation ecosystems. We should take advantage of the talents, expertise, and capabilities throughout America. The Cantwell-Wicker substitute helps address these long-standing disparities by increasing funding for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Otherwise known as EPSCoR. Participation in EPSCoR helps institutions in many states and territories improve their research capacity and capabilities to compete more effectively for Federal R&D funding. The substitute also invests in minority serving institutions and builds up research capacity in emerging institutions which have traditionally received relatively small Federal research funding. Simply put, this bill is a game changer for geographic diversity, and it’s one of the aspects of this legislation that I am most excited about. I intend to defend the gains we have made as the Endless Frontier Act moves forward as relates to geographic diversity.
Although the substitute amendment improves the underlying bill, it is in fact not ready for primetime. I regret the rushed process that has been followed. The bill would make major changes to our scientific enterprise, and I would have liked more time to solicit and incorporate Member and stakeholder feedback. I am hopeful that the majority’s determination to push the Endless Frontier Act through committee is not in service of using a partisan reconciliation bill to appropriate funding for these initiatives. Science has always been debated in a bipartisan way by this committee and Congress as a whole. Leaving one party on the sidelines in the appropriation process which I hope will not happen will detrimental consequences for the long-term sustainability of this legislation.
The Committee will also be voting today on the nomination of Lina Khan to be a Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission. After carefully considered her nomination to this important position. I will vote to report her nomination to the full Senate I believe she is focused on addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day: reigning in the big social media platforms. However, I do remain concerned that a broadly over-regulatory approached as an FTC Commissioner could have a negative effect on the economy and undermine free-market principles.
Thank you, Senator Cantwell.