November 12th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Securing the Status Quo

With the election now a week behind us, it is safe to say that the overall power dynamic in DC will not change a great deal next year. President Obama will remain in the White House for a second term, and the 113th Congress will include a Democrat-controlled Senate (with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 Independents) and a Republican-controlled House (with a final margin yet to be determined as several races are still pending).

With President Obama off the campaign trail and members of Congress returning to DC tomorrow, high on the to-do list will be addressing the “fiscal cliff”, the overused buzz phrase for what it is expected to happen when the expiration of tax cuts and implementation of spending cuts (a.k.a. sequestration) collide after the New Year. For those of you not too scared to find out what this actually means, you can read two new reports from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released last week that address the Economic Effects of Policies Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013 and Choices for Deficit Reduction.

Over the past week, President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have each made statements to mark their territory in how they want to see the fiscal cliff averted, but the real action will start tomorrow when the lame duck session officially begins. With only seven weeks and about 15 legislative days left in the year to reach a compromise, reports are emerging that a likely scenario could include a short-term solution that provides a framework for how to avert the fiscal cliff, but gives lawmakers and the White House additional time to actually fix it next year.

Also on deck will be efforts in both chambers to fill leadership positions and shuffle committee assignments. While much of this won’t be finalized until the beginning of the new Congress, the jockeying has already begun. On the research front, one competition to watch will be for Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the authorizing committee which overseas research agencies such as NSF, NIST, and NASA. With the current Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) stepping down due to term-limit requirements, three members of the Committee–Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)–have already publicly stated their intention to seek the seat.

The makeup of the President’s second-term Cabinet will also be the subject of much speculation in the coming months, as it is not uncommon for members of the Cabinet to leave after one term. While the President’s victory speech on election night reaffirmed his oft-expressed support of research and education, his leadership team will certainly play a role in determining how programs will be funded and managed in his second term.

The federal government is closed today in honor of Veteran’s Day, thank you to all those who have served!

Also of Note

Appointments.  The NSF director has tapped Roger Wakimoto, the director of the NSF-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), to be the next Assistant Director of Geosciences. Wakimoto will succeed Tim Killeen, also a former director of NCAR, who is now the Vice Chancellor for Research at State University of New York (SUNY).

Health. Francis Collins, the Director of NIH, has joined the blogosphere. You can now get regular updates on science and policy items of interest on the new NIH Director’s blog.

Space. Three university associations have weighed in with Congress on a piece of legislation that would make it easier to conduct satellite-related research at universities. The bill, the Safeguarding United States Leadership and Security Act of 2012 (S.3211) would give the Administration more flexibility on how to treat certain non-sensitive satellites and their components from an export controls standpoint. Export controls are government regulations focused on protecting the export of sensitive information–including research activities–to foreign countries.

What’s on Deck


Wednesday (11/14)

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing exploring Health Information Technology Standards and Interoperability.
  • The AAAS will host a Capitol Hill briefing on the Impact of Sequestration to Federal R&D. Contact jcarney (at) for more information.

Thursday (11/15)

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a full committee hearing on The U.S. Antarctic Program: Achieving Fiscal and Logistical Efficiency While Supporting Sound Science .









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