March 7th, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Crisis Averted (for now!)

State of Play

The looming March 4th deadline for a potential government shutdown was delayed by two weeks when the President signed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) Wednesday that would fund the government through March 18th. This CR satisfied both Democrats and Republicans by including over $4 billion in spending cuts from current levels, with most targeted at programs already slated to be reduced in the President’s FY 2012 budget request. While the government remains open, this new CR only gives negotiators two additional weeks to cross a huge ideological divide related to spending.

The White House responded to the passage of the CR with a statement in continued support of protection of research and education investments, and an invitation for House and Senate leadership to come to the White House to continue negotiations with Vice President Biden and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew on a long-term solution.

On Friday, the Senate Democrats released their version of a long-term solution in the form of a CR that would fund the remainder of FY 2011. This CR would including an additional $6.5 billion in spending cuts on top of the $4 billion agreed to in the 2-week CR the President signed on Wednesday. An initial review of the Senate Democrats’ CR shows that the legislation would keep most science agencies funded at FY 2010 levels, and provide $200 million for ARPA-E (in contrast to H.R.1’s proposal of only $50).  The Senate will reportedly debate and vote on the Senate CR and H.R. 1 this week to determine the most viable solution.

Mort Kondracke, the editor of Roll Call, posted an opinion piece on Monday that  decried the proposed cuts to research funding in H.R. 1, claiming that “Tea party torch carriers and the Republican leaders who won’t stand up to them are threatening to burn America’s seed corn.”

Several organizations weighed in with the Senate this week via letters calling for protection of research investments, including the Council on Competitiveness and 168 universities, scientific societies, and businesses that signed a letter coordinated by the The Task Force on American Innovation.

Also of Note

The Senate debated patent reform legislation this week (S.23). This legislation would make a number of changes to current patent law, including an adoption of the first-inventor-to-file system, the protection of patent office revenues from diversion to the general Treasury fund, and creation of a new post-grant review system for issued patents. Among the amendments considered was a proposal by Senator Feinstein to eliminate the first-inventor-to file provision, which did not pass. The Senate will continue debate on the bill next week.

On Wednesday, The Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new partnership, building upon the Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) both departments signed last summer. This new agreement between  the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (ASDR&E) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) will allow the DoD to take advantage of early technology breakthroughs coming out of DOE research in the areas of grid-level storage, electric vehicles, and power electronics.

Also on Wednesday, The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues published a Federal Register notice seeking comments on current regulations and standards related to the conduct of research involving human subjects.

What’s on Deck

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on “Climate Science and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Greenhouse Gas Regulations” followed on Thursday by a joint hearing with the Subcommittee on the Environment and Economy on the EPA’s FY 2012 budget.

On Thursday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the FY 2012 budget requests for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EPA, followed on Friday by another full committee hearing on the FY 2012 budget requests for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Various House Appropriations Subcommittees will hold hearings this week on the FY 2012 NSF budget, FY 2012 HHS budget, and the FY 2010 Agriculture budgets, among others (full list). On Tuesday, OMB Director Jacob Lew will testify in front of the full Senate Appropriations Committee on the overall FY 2012 President’s Budget.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will host two events this week focused on innovation. The first, The Obama Administration’s Innovation Policy, will include a discussion with representatives from the Administration and industry to discuss the President’s recently updated “Strategy for American Innovation.” The second event, U.S. Competitiveness: A New Conversation with New Opportunities, will focus on how “The United States can revitalize economic growth by boosting innovation and productivity in existing industries while also advancing emerging growth sectors such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and mobile broadband.”

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