September 29th, 2013, by Amanda Arnold  

Week in Review, or Party Like It’s 1995

Unless you’ve been hiding in your lab, (which I would heartily recommend), you know by now that Congress struggled last week and this weekend to discern the path forward for the government at the end of the fiscal year, a.k.a. tonight (Monday) at midnight.

Before leaving town on Friday, the Senate responded to the House’s short-term FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR), which would fund the government at the post-sequester 2013 level of $986 million through December 15th. The Senate approved a modified version that removed the language defunding The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) and adjusted the end date from December 15th to November 15th in the hope that the additional time would allow Congress to put together a more complete funding package for FY 2014.

The Senate changes sent the House into a tailspin until just after midnight on Saturday when they passed a yet-again-amended version of the CR that would delay implementation of the remaining Affordable Care Act provisions, repeal the tax on medical devices, and again move the end date to December 15th. The Senate is back in session starting at 2pm on Monday, which leaves precious little procedural time to come to a compromise. It does appear the stage is set for a shutdown.

In preparation for the shutdown scenario, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Sylvia Burwell sent a memo to government agencies encouraging them to update plans for a lapse in appropriations.

 Several agencies also released guidance, including Department of Education, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. OMB is continually updating a list of agency shutdown contingency plans. Interestingly, the USPTO Director signaled Friday that the agency would remain open “for at least a few weeks” in a shutdown scenario.

As many have discussed, this wouldn’t be the first time the government shut down. Since 1976, the government has shut down 17 times. The last government shutdown took place in 1995-1996 when President Clinton and Republican House leader Newt Gingrich sparred, forcing the government to close twice — first from November 13 – 19, 1995 and then again from December 15, 2021 – January 6, 1996. The Pew Research Center Fact-Tank has a view on the lessons we may apply today from the 1995-1996 debacle.

Unfortunately, with all this focus on the end of the fiscal year, some of the longer-term challenges are getting lost in the fray. For instance, even if a short-term fix to keep the government open through the start of FY 2014 is sorted out, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the U.S. will reach the debt ceiling, or exceed its borrowing capacity, on October 17th.

Given this pending fiscal cliff, the House released a debt ceiling bill that was criticized as unrealistic due to its long list of demands in exchange for increasing the debt limit. Demands included: a year-long delay of Obamacare, implementation of the Ryan tax reform plan, the Keystone XL pipeline, more oil drilling both offshore and on federally protected lands, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions, reform of the federal employee retirement program, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, more means-testing in Medicare, and repeal of the Public Health trust fund.

Also of Note

Appointments. President Obama announced several new nominations including Catherine Ann Novelli for Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. Jamie Studley will also serve as Deputy Under Secretary of Education at Department of Education.

Education. Private industry leaders, including AT&T and Google, Inc., are using massive open online courses (known as MOOCs) to address job training needs.

Energy. Oak Ridge National Laboratory announced it will pare back its staff by 400+ positions due to ongoing budget realities.

Environment. The White House approved a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change.

Health. NIH announced it will close the NIH Office of Science Education and several other programs despite Senate appropriations committee language from July directing the agency to maintain funding the office and associated programs in FY 2014.

NIH announced funding for the Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) awards this week. The funding, a total of $3.7 million, will come from the NIH Director’s Common Fund.

NIH’s Sally Rockey offered additional background in her RockTalk blog on the HHS effort, in which NIH will participate, to move towards sub-accounting for NIH award payments by January 2015.

NIH’s Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) released a video this week, 6 Awesome Technologies Your Tax Dollars are Paying to Create, highlighting funding accomplishments including dissolvable stents, the world’s smallest MRI machine, and a hand-held ultrasound device.

Manufacturing.  The White House launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0 yesterday, which will continue to inform the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Initiative.

Patents. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted unanimously to start gathering information on the effect of “patent trolls” on innovation and competition.

Emerging legislation on “patent trolls” is gaining ground in the House. Dennis Crouch offers an overview of Representative Goodlatte’s draft bill for Patently-O.

Research. The House and Senate agreed on a version of The Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (H.R. 527) that will allow a continuation of the American helium supply beyond the original end date of October 7th and for many years to come. The President is expected to sign the bill.

NOAA’s Research Council released its five-year R&D plan this week entitled Environmental Understanding to Ensure America’s Vital and Sustainable Future.

According to NSF statistics, federal funding for research actually declined nine percent between FY 2010 and FY 2011.

The National Research Council released a new report, The Mathematical Sciences in 2025, examining challenges and needs through 2025.

In Print

Michael Stratford writes for Inside Higher Ed on the potential impact of a shutdown on universities in Shutdown Looms.

Rebecca Ballhaus writes about the lessons from the 1995-1996 shutdown for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire Blog in What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Shutdown

Tom Friedman writes about his general discontent with the way in which Congressional dysfunction is impacting America and, specifically, NIH for the New York Times Opinion Pages in The Way We Were.

NIH Director Francis Collins and his Deputy for Extramural Research write about now sullen times over at NIH given continuing budget cuts for the NIH’s Director’s Blog in One Nation in Support of Biomedical Research?

Morton Kondracke writes about the impact of the sequester on biomedical science for Roll Call’s Beltway Insiders Blog in ‘Century of Biology’ in U.S. Is Being Undone By Sequester.

Ariana Eunjung Cha outlines how the sequester cuts are “delaying research and forcing layoffs” for The Washington Post in Budget sequester squeezes scientific research.

What’s on Deck

Tuesday (10/1)

  • The House Committee on Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing on Keeping College Within Reach: Simplifying Federal Student Aid.
  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communication and Technology will hold a hearing on Challenges and Opportunities in the 5 GHz Spectrum Band.
  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing on Reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Wednesday (10/2)

  • The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing to examine the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act regarding scientific research and the economy.
  • The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy will hold a hearing on Rebuilding American Manufacturing.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold an Executive Session on Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2013, CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013, H.R. 2094, Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013, and Nominations.
  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on The North American Energy Infrastructure Act.
  • The House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law on will hold a hearing on Dodd - Frank’s Impact on Competition in the Financial Industry.
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements will hold a hearing on Oversight of the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit.

Thursday (10/3)

  • The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will hold a hearing on Advanced Biofuels: Creating Jobs and Lower Prices at the Pump.
  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on Reviewing FDA’s Implementation of FDASIA.
  • The Congressional Kidney Caucus with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); Vanderbilt University; Northwest Kidney Centers; The Nephcure Foundation; and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) will hold a briefing on cutting-edge breakthroughs in artificial kidney research. Contact Jennifer Wickre at Jennifer.wickre (at) for more information.

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