February 11th, 2013, by Amanda Arnold  

Week in Review, or Fighting Sequester Fatigue

Last week, as people were digging out in the Northeast from what NASA is calling a historic blizzard, President Obama attempted to thaw efforts to move forward and avert the sequester.

On Monday, President Obama signed the No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 into law, which, as Abby reported last week, officially suspends the nation’s debt limit until May 19th and includes a clause suspending pay for members of Congress if the chamber fails to pass a budget resolution for FY 2014 by April 15th. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the debt limit will need to be raised to about $450 billion on May 19th and that limit will only last as long as August. Despite the short term fix, kicking the debt limit can down the road a few months seemed to slow momentum on efforts to avert sequester on both sides of the isle.

President Obama, however, reinvigorated momentum against sequester on Tuesday when he called on Congress to pass a package of new revenue and cuts that would delay the sequester a few months beyond March 1st. The President took the show on the road joining both the Senate Democratic caucus party retreat and the House Democrats annual retreat urging a short-term deal and, perhaps, a longer-term package to address the full 10 years of sequester cuts. Meanwhile, tough discussions continue as 

Speaker Boehner spoke publicly about his willingness to replace the sequester with cuts and reforms, but no new revenue, and privately at the Senate Republican Conference retreat where he urged Senate and House Republicans to stick together and fight smart.

Not to be deterred, the President went on the offensive again at the end of the week highlighting the harm sequestration will do to programs across the board, including to research and innovation, both in his weekly address, Averting the Sequester and Finding a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction, and in a separately released fact sheet, Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security. Included in the fact sheet are estimates from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) outlining the sequester cuts at 5 percent for non-defense programs and 8 percent for defense programs, but noting that due to the shorter implementation time (from 12 months to 7) that the effective percentage cuts will be closer to 9 percent for non-defense programs and 13 percent for defense programs.

Amidst all of this, the President’s budget to Congress is a week late and we’re told not to expect the final document until early April. With the sequester deadline approaching in less than 15 working days and the President’s State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday, February 12th, it will be an interesting week!

Also of Note

Appointments and Retirements. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation since 2010, announced Tuesday his intent to step down from this role in March and to become the next President of Carnegie Mellon University, effective July 1st.

The National Journal released a short list of those being considered to replace Secretary Chu as Director of the Department of Energy.

Energy. Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski announced Monday the release of an energy policy blueprint, Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future. The blueprint lays out an energy policy and research strategy including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opening the coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development, and directing new funding to an Advanced Energy Trust Fund to enable more clean energy research.

Health. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) highlighted federal research and, in a troubling turn for some, suggested prioritizing medical research spending above social science research funding.

On Thursday, United for Medical Research (UMR) released a new state-by-state analysis detailing the impact of sequestration on NIH including a projection that the life science economy would lose 20,500 jobs and a further $3 billion in economic impact in a sequestration scenario.

Patents/IP. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a new dataset to the public this week. The dataset includes 6.7 million trademark applications and registrations issued by USPTO between January 1870 and January 2012. This unprecedented release is designed to support new research on trademarks, their users, and economic impact.

Research. ScienceWorksForU.S., a combined effort of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and The Science Coalition (TSC), launched a video editorials campaign this week to draw attention to the impact of sequestration on the research enterprise.

In more video news, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) announced Wednesday the winners of its Stand Up for Science initiative. Stand With Science, a graduate student group founded at MIT that advocates for scientific research funding, won the video contest with What’s Next, a video about the contribution of federal support for science to society.

On Wednesday, February 6th, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a full committee hearing on American Competitiveness: The Role of Research and Development to highlight the impact of research and development in our everyday lives and offer an outlook for years to come given current funding lines. AIP’s FYI blog offers detailed coverage of the hearing, including testimony offered by the hearing witnesses, including Chuck Vest, former MIT President. If you missed it, the webcast is worth a watch.

In Print

Co-authors Rich Templeton, CEO of Texas Instruments, and Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, highlight the importance of federal research funding in Politico with A Crucial Role in Innovation.

Congressman Lamar Smith writes in Roll Call about the importance of federal science funding in Smith: Ensuring Science Investments Provide Strong Return.

Amidst building momentum for immigration reform legislation New York Times Op-Ed Contributor Ross Eisenbrey offers a counter point of view in America’s Genius Glut.

ScienceInsider’s Jeff Mervis digs into the sequestration details this week in Sequestration: A Primer for the Perplexed.

What’s on Deck

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on the American Energy Outlook: Technology, Market, and Policy Drivers.
  • The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will host a briefing with honorary co-hosts Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), and Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to discuss AACR’s Cancer Progress Report 2012.

Thursday

 

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