Analysis of House Vote on Coble Amendment

(June 25, 2000) The House vote rejecting the Coble amendment to increase funding for the USPTO by $134 Million revealed several patterns. Republicans were more supportive than Democrats. Representatives from California and the other western states were more supportive. Representatives who typically vote in favor of measures supported by high tech industry voted in favor. Finally, members of the Judiciary Committee were in favor, while members of the Appropriations Committee were opposed.

News Analysis

The House began consideration on Thursday, June 22, of HR 4690, the Commerce Justice State (CJS) appropriations bill. The House rejected the amendment offered by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) to increase FY 2001 funding for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by $134 Million, and to offset this against funding for the census.

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an entity of the Department of Commerce that is responsible for the examination and issuance of patents and the examination and registration of trademarks. Supporters of the amendment argued that the high tech sector is the driving force behind economic growth, that patent and trademark applications are growing far faster than USPTO funding, and that without an increase USPTO delays will grow, with harm resulting to the high tech industry, and the economy.

Opponents of the amendment defended spending on the census.

The amendment failed on a roll call vote of 145 to 223. The vote was held on Friday afternoon, June 23, after many Representatives had already returned to their districts. Consequently, 66 members missed the vote.

Perhaps due to the amendment's use of census funding to offset the increase in USPTO funding, the vote had a partisan component. 106 Republicans and 38 Democrats voted in favor, and 76 Republicans and 146 Democrats voted against. However, there were several other trends.

The amendment drew strong bipartisan support from California and other western states, from members of the Judiciary Committee, and from members who have a record of being supportive of issues important to high tech industry.

Not surprisingly, with more high tech computer, e-commerce, and biotech companies located in Silicon Valley and other areas in the Western United States, the representatives from these areas tended to vote for the Coble amendment.

Silicon Valley representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) both voted yes, while Tom Campbell (R-CA) missed the vote.

The entire California delegation voted 26 to 16 in favor of the amendment, with 10 not voting. Oregon voted 4 to 1 in favor. (The Oregon delegation has 4 Democrats and 1 Republican). Washington split 3-3-3. Seattle representatives Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) both voted yes. Colorado voted 5 to 1 in favor.

For all western states (continental states on or west of the continental divide) the breakdown was 47 in favor, 26 opposed, and 16 not voting.

Also, members who are consistently supportive of high tech industry voted for the Coble amendment. Both House Co-chairmen of the Internet Caucus, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA), voted yes. Similarly, the three Representatives from high tech intensive northern Virginia, Tom Davis (R-VA), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Frank Wolf (R-VA), all voted yes.

There was also a strong committee correlation. The bill was reported by the House Appropriations Committee. Its members rallied in opposition to the Coble amendment. Only 8 voted yes, while 41 voted no. Of the 8 supporters, three are from California -- Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Duke Cunningham (R-CA), and Sam Farr (D-CA) -- and two are from northern Virginia.

Conversely, the members of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the USPTO, rallied behind the Coble amendment. 20 members voted yes, while 6 voted no. Committee Democrats voted 9 to 3 in favor of the amendment.

The members of the House Commerce Committee, which has increasingly come to view itself as a proponent of the New Economy, split 20 to 23.

Breakdown of Vote on the Coble Amendment
to HR 4690, the CJS Appropriations Bill
(June 23, 2000)
  Yes No NV Total
House 145 (33%) 223 (51%) 66 435 (100%)
Republicans 106 (48%) 76 (34%) 39 221 (100%)
Democrats 38 (18%) 146 (69%) 27 211 (100%)
Appropriations Comm. 8 (13%) 41 (67%) 12 61 (100%)
Judiciary Committee 20 (54%) 6 (16%) 11 37 (100%)
Commerce Committee 20 (40%) 23 (43%) 10 53 (100%)
California 26 (50%) 16 (31%) 10 52 (100%)
Western States 47 (53%) 26 (29%) 16 89 (100%)