US House Votes to End the Resurrection of Office of Technology Assessment

Posted by at 3:54 pm on May 6, 2014

At the end of last week, the US House voted on a bill to restore the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), an office of the United States Congress to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues of the day. It was struck down by a majority of 248 to 164, with 78 percent of Democrats voting to reinstate the department. Republicans led the charge to defeat the group, with 94 percent voting to not restore the group.

The vote would amend HR 4487, a bill to fund the House Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund. The group’s funding was revenue neutral, taking funding from the trust fund to pay what fees the OTA would incur. Decisions that the new group would help congress evaluate would be the ongoing technology patent wars and potential adverse affects to industry, the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger, as well as other burgeoning technologies needing discussion by congress such as BitCoin, wireless communication, and other Internet issues.

The OTA was governed by a twelve-member board, comprising six members of Congress from each party, half from the Senate and half from the House of Representatives. During its twenty-four-year life it produced about 750 studies on a wide range of topics, including acid rain, health care, global climate change, and polygraphs. The OTA was struck down in 1995 in an effort driven by Newt Gingrich

Upon its initial dissolution in 1995, Republican representative Amo Houghton, railed at the vote saying that “we are cutting off one of the most important arms of Congress when we cut off unbiased knowledge about science and technology.” Candidate Hilary Clinton proposed re-establishment of the group, should she have been elected president in 2008.

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