Glowing arrow breaking through brick wall before others can reach it.Last week, the Senate made significant procedural headway, in coordination with the House, to advance into a formal conference on the “Bipartisan Innovation Act” (BIA), merging the House-passed America COMPETES Act with the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). This development occurred after weeks of pre-conferencing discussions by staff among some of the committees of jurisdiction. This week, the Senate will vote on an agreed list of (non-binding) Motions to Instruct conferees and formally name conferees to the committee.  After weeks of back and forth – and nearly a year since USICA was passed – the two chambers are finally close to formally launching negotiations on a compromise bill.

Timing on completion of the conference and final passage remains uncertain. Originally, Commerce Secretary Raimondo said that a final bill had to get to the President’s desk by May. But, after that became unlikely, some congressional leaders expressed hope that the bill would get to the President by Memorial Day. However, now even that estimate looks overly optimistic. Most agree that, if a conference does close, it has to get done by the end of the summer, before lawmakers turn their attention to the November midterm congressional elections.

Congressional staff indicate closing conference on the BIA – even by the end of the summer – will be a Herculean lift.

We agree. If the bill is not finalized by the end of August recess, congressional leaders may move only the pieces with the most bipartisan support (e.g., the restructuring National Science Foundation programs, funding semiconductor incentives, and some pieces of the trade title), and move some of more the other more controversial elements in some unrelated must-pass legislative vehicle, most likely the annual defense authorization act or Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) new proposal, the “Economic Statecraft for the 21st Century Act.”

Thus, while conference negotiations on the BIA are expected to get underway soon, there are still a lot of moving parts associated with a bill of notable complexity that makes forecasting its prospects success challenging at this point. We are closely monitoring the conference negotiations. Follow us here for continuous updates as lawmakers debate this historic bill. Please contact one of us if you have additional questions.