June 13th, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Hailing Hammurabi

Last week was quiet on the appropriations front, with the House of Representatives in recess and the Senate inching along on FY 2012 consideration, while calls to increase the debt limit and reduce the deficit continued to drown out most progress in Washington.

Both House and Senate Republicans expressed support for a call by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to only increase the nation’s debt limit if spending cuts of a similar magnitude are implemented simultaneously. Specifically, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) stated that $2.5 trillion in spending cuts would be required to raise the debt limit that same amount. The Republican Study Committee, a group of 175 conservative members of the House of Representatives, also went public last week with their plan for how they government should address the debt limit/deficit problem. Their “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan recommends cutting the deficit in half by reducing spending by over $380 billion in FY 2012 alone, enacting statutory caps on federal spending, and amending the Constitution with a balanced-budget amendment.

Vice President Biden’s bipartisan group met for the first time in over two weeks, and has scheduled three meetings for this week in an apparent effort to pick up the pace toward a bipartisan resolution on the debt limit/deficit issue. Speaker Boehner has continually called for a compromise on the debt ceiling debate by the end of the month, well before the early August deadline. Politico reports that one member of that group, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), expressed optimism on their progress in an email sent to House Republicans last week, saying “I am cautiously optimistic we can find sufficient common ground with the Administration to enact spending cuts that meet the goal outlined by the Speaker.”

Also of Note

Defense. On June 1st, the House Appropriations Committee, Defense Subcommittee marked up its draft FY 2012 spending bill. This was one of the few FY 2012 spending bills with an overall allocation slightly higher than FY 2011 levels, but Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) at the Department of Defense (DoD) did take a hit.  A committee release on the bill states:  The bill contains $73 billion – $1.9 billion below last year’s level and $2.3 billion below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new technologies. This funding for basic and applied science research will help to advance the safety and success of current and future military operations, and will help prepare our forces with the systems and equipment necessary to meet potential challenges down the road.”

Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his confirmation process to become the next Secretary of Defense. When asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) about the importance of R&D, Panetta answered: I don’t think we can do this job [keep a strong U.S.-based industrial base) without investing in research and development as part of the process of making sure we are at the cutting edge for the future.” (information courtesy of the Coalition for National Security Funding)

Energy. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to consider several bills related to nuclear energy, including S.1067, the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2011. This bill was introduced on May 25th by Senator Udall (D-CO), and seeks to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require the Secretary of Energy to carry out a research, development, and demonstration program to reduce manufacturing and construction costs relating to nuclear reactors, and for other purposes.

Health. Nature‘s newsblog reported on additional details released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on how it plans to fund the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

eNews Park Forest reported on a medical research symposium at Northwestern University hosted by Senator Kirk (R-IL), during which he expressed support for stem-cell research: “The potential of stem cell research to cure Alzheimer’s, cancer or diabetes is limitless if we aggressively support American medical research.”

Patent Reform. The patent reform bill (America Invents Act) is scheduled to go to the House floor this week, but faced a setback last week  as the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) objected to a provision that would allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to use the fees it receives for its operations, rather than having them diverted to the government’s central fund. The two chairmen argue that this would essentially take the USPTO out of the normal appropriations process, thereby limiting Congressional oversight. Backers of this bill assert that this is one of its most important provisions of reform, as the “normal” appropriations process has not provided enough funding for the USPTO to efficiently manage the volume of applications it receives.

Space. Space-Travel.com reports on a new study out from Euroconsult that provides great detail on the NASA budget outlook through the year 2016. The report itself is quite pricey ($5000!), but the article provides an overview of how NASA will generally refocus its budget on science and technology and away from its traditional space flight focus. For those of you interested in the cheap version, NASA’s FY 2012 budget request can be found here.

White House. President Obama announced this week that Mark Gorenberg will fill the vacant seat on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). This seat came open when Harold Varmus left PCAST to serve as the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Gorenberg is currently a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, was formerly with Sun Microsystems, and is also an MIT graduate,

In Print. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University (ASU), along with Denis Cortese, a former president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic and director of the ASU Health Care Delivery and Policy Program, and Leland Hartwell, the recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine and chairman of the Center for Sustainable Health at the ASU Biodesign Institute, wrote an op-ed in Bloomberg arguing for a consolidation of NIH’s 27 centers into 3 in order to better streamline medical research get the results of that research into practice.

Mike Cassidy, President of the Georgia Research Alliance, wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in which he describes how “research and innovation have been a transformative factor for economies throughout the world.” Cassidy outlines how the state of Georgia has benefited from scientific research, and calls for continued investments, even in down economic times.

Jonathan Moreno, Editor-in-Chief of the Center for American Progress’ online magazine Science Progress, gives a preview on that site of his forthcoming book, Body Politic: The Battle Over Science in America. This book will look at some of the historic battles, political and otherwise,  surrounding science in America.

What’s On Deck

The full House Appropriations Committee will consider the FY 2012 energy spending bill defense spending bill on Wednesday.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold several hearings of interest including one on Transportation R&D and the nation’s Critical Materials Strategy (both on Tuesday), DOE’s clean energy programs (on Wednesday), and STEM Education (on Thursday).

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will look at regulatory reform from the viewpoint of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee will consider the FY 2012 defense spending bill on Wednesday.

On Thursday, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), along with the Task Force on American Innovation and the Congressional R&D Caucus will host a Capitol Hill briefing on a recent ITIF report on how university research contributes to American Innovation (Rayburn B339, 12:00, contact smithrj *at* asme.org for more information).


  1. Week in Review, or Suggesting a Short-Term Solution :: NEWScience Policy says:

    May 20th, 2012 at 8:47 pm (#)

    […] The specter of a wild lame duck session became a bit less scary this week, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle suggested that, instead of finding a “go big” solution to the four major problems facing the Congress in November (extension of tax cuts, raising the debt ceiling, “fixing” sequestration, and completing FYFiscal Year 2013 appropriations), Congress might opt for a short-term solution. The short-term option could look something like legislation that would hold sequester and tax cut extensions off for six months to a year, allowing FYFiscal Year 2013 appropriations to be wrapped up apart from the shadow of significant cuts. The debt limit will likely need to be addressed before the end of this Congressional session, which will not be without controversy. CQ reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) will only consider the raising of the debt ceiling if it is accompanied by significant cuts to spending. Yes, we have heard this argument before! […]