(photo credit: Evan Vucci/AP)
Patent reform would help innovators and entrepreneurs create more American jobs. That’s why the House passed a patent reform bill with a huge bipartisan majority (325-91) in December of last year, and President Obama expressed his support for it in his State of the Union a month later. Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) was set to move forward with it this summer, but now that’s not going to happen, and he’s “furious” – because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ‘strong-armed’ him into dropping it.
On December 5, 2013, the House patent reform bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), passed with 130 Democratic votes, and joined the growing list of House-passed jobs bills awaiting action in the Senate. Speaker Boehner said, “This bipartisan reform will help businesses large and small beat back abusive litigation, promoting more investment, innovation, and private-sector growth.”
The next month, in the State of the Union on January 28th, President Obama said, “let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.”
Since a bill had already passed the House, it was up to the Democrat-controlled Senate to act, as the White House made clear at an event on strengthening the patent system on February 20:
Then-Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling:
“Now, as I said, this was an area where the president chose to call for legislative action in the State of the Union. This is an area where we have seen some very constructive bipartisan action. When the president put forward his legislative principles, we received positive public comments not just from Chairman Leahy in the Senate, but Chairman Goodlatte in the House of Representatives.
“Likewise, as the bill was going through the House of Representatives, while of course we did not agree with everything in there, we worked in good faith and let it be known that we supported this effort to move forward and -- and that the effort that Chairman Goodlatte and others did to pass a bill that was able to pass by the impressive margin of 325 to 91.
“I think that there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be that same ability to work together in the United States Senate. I think this is an area where you can see a sweet spot for bipartisan compromise.”
And Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker:
“So all of us in the administration will continue to work with Congress on the legislative recommendations that the White House made last June. And as Gene said, we need Congress to step up at once and -- as they did with the America Invents Act. The House has already passed a version of patent reform legislation with bipartisan support. So we need the Senate to act as well.”
That was nearly six months ago. Now, Sen. Leahy has officially thrown in the towel on bringing this jobs bill up for a vote in his committee – he took it off the committee agenda shortly before a vote was expected - at Senate Reid’s insistence, he now admits.
Why? According to National Journal, it “would likely have split the Democratic caucus, especially because many rely on trial lawyers for substantial campaign donations.”
Yesterday, Sen. Leahy explained how he feels about Sen. Reid’s decision in his hometown newspaper, The Burlington Free Press:
“‘I am furious with what happened,’ Leahy said. ‘We worked so hard to get a coalition. Harry Reid and a couple of others said, ‘We won’t let it come to the floor.’ I think that’s wrong, but I’m not going to give up.’”
The American people, who are still asking, “where are the jobs?” have a right to be furious, as well.