Monday, December 20, 2010

Camouflage! An Innovative but Crappy Use for SBIR Reauthorization

Just when you thought you’d seen everything. The lengths our limping quackers will go to make their Lame Duck session productive is absolutely stunning. But you’ve got to give them credit for innovation.

I use GovTrack to keep me informed of activities on bills in process with regard to SBIR. One I was tracking was H.R.2965 – the House version of SBIR Reauthorization. When it showed action last week, I eagerly went to see what was up. The Title hadn’t changed. But the bill’s Text had changed – to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”! Huh?

I made some quick inquiries, and was given a quick brief on the tactic being employed – using H.R.2965 as camouflage because it was far enough along in the process to avoid having to be further discussed by either chamber and could be immediately voted upon. The title of the bill wasn’t changed, just the text. We know our legislators don’t read the bills they vote on. It was to be a sneak attack. And, it worked.

I was asked to not rattle the cage yet, as some behind-the-scenes action was simultaneously happening with the Senate’s version (S.1233) along with discussions with BIO that just might get things settled, and we were to “stay out of the way”. OK. I’m a good soldier. I put the “pen” down and waited.

Last night Rick Shindell published an SBIR Insider about this monkey business. As they used to say: READ ALL ABOUT IT: SBIR Insider of December 19, 2010. The cat’s out of the bag, so I got out the pen.

I know this is how things get done in Washington, but I don’t have to like it. Resorting to camouflage and subterfuge to sneak things by is just wrong. I don’t care what the issue is. Not that this is anything new to us -- the NIH's sneaky ARRA SBIR exclusion is a case in point.

Frankly, I’m fed up with political posturing, pouting, pontificating, and prevaricating. No one tells the truth about anything. They tell the politically expedient story and use perception management to make it seem like the truth.

Yes, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand I’m delighted to see the guts ripped out of H.R.2965. It was a bad bill. But I know one thing for sure. The deliberate use of SBIR’s name for unrelated political expediency was distasteful. The crappy tactic of not changing the title when the bill has been totally changed should be illegal, but the Congress makes its own rules, and holds itself to a different standard, both legal and ethical.

I guess I wouldn’t make a good politician. I know how to play the SBIR game, and I think I’ve played it well. But this game is another story. To have used a small business bill in this way is flat out dishonest. No one asked me, but I’m telling!

Now what? Will this be another instance of Huggem-Muggem? Now that they've used us for their own nefarious purposes, will SBIR be summarily cast aside and handed off to the next Congress to start over?

Or will the Senate, the House, BIO, NVCA, SBTC, and the NSBA all agree to do what's best for small business and emerge yet this session with an SBIR Reauthorization compromise we can all live with?

Will the egos of our legislators, especially those in the House, be soothed to where they’ll act responsibly instead of selfishly? Will Nydia put her purse away? Will pigs fly?

Don't let my disgust with the process and those who would use it for their own selfish purposes make you think I've given up. I'm basically an optimist. And a realist.

Maybe pigs really will fly. Stay tuned.


Alan Dillingham said...

It is my understanding that the original language of S. 1233, has been replaced with compromise language on SBIR Re-authorization, supported by Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO); National Venture Capital Association and Small Business Technology Council (SBTC). However, text is not available at this time.

Carl Nelson said...

Fred, Bismarck warned us not to watch law or sausage being made.

Of course "the Senate, the House, BIO, NVCA, SBTC, and the NSBA all agree to do what's best for small business" Ask any of them and they will tell you so. It's just they they don't agree on what that is.

The good news is that eventually SBIR will get re-authorized because it costs the politicians nothing to do so. The bad news is that more of the same will probably produce more of the same. So much could be attained if anyone running the show had any incentive to produce demonstrable results beyond the money being handed out.

Anonymous said...

That sounds more like a procedural move to finish DADT in the alloted time, rather than an effort to hide DADT from anyone inside this bill, as you seem to imply. If I understand that right, then its quite disappointing, but hardly 'Camouflage'.

- Fred Patterson - said...

Procedural? Everything the Senate and House does is "procedural"! COMPLETELY changing the bill's text but NOT changing the bill's title -- is that procedural too? Sorry, that dog don't hunt. You sound like a congressional staffer, Anonymous.