October 31st, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Scary Sequestration

With the November 23rd deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction just a few weeks away, it looks like leaders of both the House and Senate are realizing how scared they are of the possibility of sequestration. Sequestration is what would happen if the Committee doesn’t reach a deal, triggering automatic cuts to domestic and defense spending that would be implemented in FY 2013. Politico reports that members of the Joint Committee met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), presumably to discuss how to avoid sequestration, but the substance of these meetings remains under wraps. Both the  Democrat and Republican members of the Joint Committee released their deficit reduction plans this week. The Democrat plan would cut the deficit by $3 trillion over ten years through almost equal spending cuts and revenue increases—including tax increases—while the Republican plan would cut the deficit by $2.2 trillion, with most of the revenue increases coming in the form of increased Medicare premiums, not tax increases. Not surprisingly, neither party appears to be embracing the other’s plan!

With the Senate in recess and the House continuing its negotiations behind closed doors, FY 2012 remained stagnant last week. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) did, however, indicate that he would consider the “minibus” strategy, as opposed to passing one big omnibus bill. I hear that the next  FY 2012 “minibus” bill to be considered in the Senate will likely include the Energy and Water Development, Homeland Security, and Financial Services spending bills.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jack Lew, wrote both House and Senate appropriators last week, threatening to veto a FY 2012 spending bill that “undermines critical domestic priorities or national security through funding levels or language restrictions, contains earmarks, or fails to make the tough choices to cut where needed while maintaining what we need to spur long-term job creation and win the future.” The letter goes on to name a number of priorities, including support for research programs at the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Also of Note

Congress. Democrats on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee announced a shuffling of their subcommittee leadership slots, presumably due to the departure last July of Rep. David Wu (D-OR). Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) will take over Wu’s post as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, while Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) will replace Edwards as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. The Committee also announced that Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) will serve on the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

Rep. John Olver (D-MA) announced his plans to retire at the end of the current Congress (end of next year). The Boston Globe reports that this should make the redistricting process go a bit more smoothly in Massachusetts, as the state will lose a district based on the results of the 2010 census. Rep. Olver, an MIT alum, has been a strong supporter of research funding, especially in his role on the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Defense. The American Institute of Physic’s FYI reports on yet another letter sent to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction defending research, this one from the Coalition on National Security Research. This letter highlights the role of defense research as an “incubator for the next generation of national security technologies” and argues that “investments in the Defense S&T program have yielded cutting edge technologies and innovations that have led to superiority on the battlefield, life-saving therapies for wounded soldiers, and better quality of life for civilians.”

Health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a new fact sheet highlighting Examples of NIH Research Advances and Economic Benefits. This fact sheet showcases research advances related to genomics and other areas, and the impact that NIH research has on the local, regional, and national economy. Examples like these will be important for all research agencies to highlight, as they fight to maintain their funding in the coming years.

Last week was the submission deadline for comments on the Health and Human Services (HHS) Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to revise the “Common Rule,” which governs the protection of human subjects in research. I’m sure HHS received many comments on this significant ANPRM, but here are two responses from the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Immigration. The Wall Street Journal reports that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce legislation providing up to 10,000 visas a year to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with doctorates in engineering, information technology, and the natural sciences.

Technology Transfer. The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on the subject of “Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High-Growth Businesses.” This memo to the heads of executive agencies and departments outlines policy, goals, and measurements to streamline the federal government’s technology transfer and commercialization process, and to facilitate commercialization through local and regional partnerships.

In Print

Robert Kuttner wrote an op-ed in Politco, arguing that federal investments in NIH, NSF, NASA, and DoD have helped push AMericans up the ladder of success.”For example,” the op-ed states, “the biotech sector, one of America’s few export winners, exists because of extensive public investments via the NIH and government grants and contracts to our great research universities.”

The American Physical Society’s latest edition of Capitol Hill Quarterly reports on a recent Congressional briefing showcasing researchers whose federally funded research contributed to the design and functionality of the iPad. This standing room only event was hosted by the Task Force on American Innovation, and sponsored by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Mike McCaul (R-TX), and Ben Quayle (R-AZ).

What’s on Deck

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Science Education will hold a hearing on STEM in Action.

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