November 17th, 2013, by Amanda Arnold  

Week in Review, or Still Agreeing to Agree on an Overdue Budget

The 29 members of the joint budget committee, which first met on October 30th, met again Wednesday with the continuing goal to deliver a spending plan for FY 2014 by December 13th.  During the meeting, the committee heard from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf who commented on the impact of ongoing budget stagnation. On the same day, the Congressional Budget Office released a report, Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023, outlining hundreds of suggestions for revenue increases and spending cuts. Suggestions included curtailing the tax deduction for charitable giving and limiting the value of itemized deductions, as well as recommended adjustments for federal higher education funding schemes and mandatory health programs.

It is not clear whether the committee members are any closer to a plan that would address the $91 billion chasm that continues to separate the House and Senate FY 2014 budget plans. While the first two meetings were open to the public, it is likely that further negotiations to set the parameters of an agreement will take place behind closed doors with the next public meetings after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Leading up to the meeting, the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Congressman Rogers (R-KY) and Senator Mikulski (D-MD), again urged the joint budget committee to set the 302(a) numbers, or the topline spending levels, for FY 2014 and FY 2015 by November 22nd in order to allow time for renewed negotiations on the 12 annual appropriations bills.

Also of Note

Appointments. The President announced several pending nominations.

For the Department of Energy, the President intends to nominate both Franklin Orr, Stanford University chemical engineer, as Undersecretary for Science and Marc Kastner, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist, to head the Office of Science.

The President also intends to nominate Vivek Hallegere Murthy, co-founder and President of Doctors for America, for Surgeon General (Department of Health and Human Services), and two new members to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). New PCAST members include Susan L. Graham, faculty at University of California, Berkeley and J. Michael McQuade, currently of United Technologies Corporation.  

For those of you interested in who’s getting leadership positions on Capitol Hill, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will Chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense while Mike Simpson (R-ID) will lead the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Data. Following an event last week at the White House entitled, Data to Knowledge to Action, the White House released a fact sheet documenting progress made since the Obama administration’s $200 million Big Data Research and Development program launched in March 2012. OSTP further expands on White House action on this issue in the OSTP blog.

Education. Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh launched the Simon Initiative this week to accelerate the use of learning science and technology to improve student learning.

The First Lady indicated interest in higher education policy. Her focus appears to be in making sure that high-achieving students from low-income families strive to attend the best college they can.

Health. A bipartisan group of six Senators requested a study on regenerative medicine this week from the Government Accountability Office to understand the federal programs and policies crafted to foster the development of regenerative medicine products.

180 associations, (including American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of American Universities, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), signed a letter to the co-chairs of the House-Senate budget conference urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction to replace sequestration.

Following an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled Cash-Strapped NIH May Ask Universities to Limit Grant Applications, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey published in her blog, Rock Talk, a post entitled Dispelling Rumors on NIH Application Limits arguing that NIH is not pursuing limiting application submissions.

Immigration. House Speaker Boehner dashed hopes that immigration reform might gain renewed momentum this week when he stated in a press conference that, “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Innovation. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker introduced the agency’s 2014 policy agenda during a speech in Washington, DC. Key components included a strong digital economy, emphasis on manufacturing and technology, and a building a competitive workforce.

Intellectual Property. Despite bipartisan calls from members of his committee, House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) is pressing forward in the fast-track process to pass the Innovation Act (HR 3309) out of committee. The bipartisan proposal attempts to address the issues of “patent trolls.”

Research. The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and The Science Coalition released the results this week of a joint survey on sequester impact at research universities.

NDD United, a group of coalition leaders joined together to save non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, released a report this week, Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure, outlining the impact of ongoing cuts to research agencies and Health and Human Services.  

New Democrat Coalition, a congressional group founded in 1997, unveiled a comprehensive agenda for COMPETES including Principles for the reauthorization of the America COMPETES legislation. Key components include stabilizing funding for Research and Development, encouraging technology transfer and streamlining innovation, and supporting STEM education and workforce development.

Space. A report released this week by the NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified several obstacles facing the commercial crew program, including unstable funding, timely requirement and certification guidance, and inter-agency coordination regarding spaceflight issues.

In Print

University Presidents Mary Sue Coleman and John L. Hennessy wrote in support of STEM fields and social sciences research for The Washington Post in Lessons from the humanities and social sciences.

Nish Acharya writes about the critical role of universities in entrepreneurship and the commercialization of federal research for Forbes in You’ll Never Guess Where the New Centers of Innovation Are.

Sam Stein reports on the impact of ongoing sequestration cuts for Huffington Post in Sequestration Victims Have 2 Big Demands.

Nick Anderson highlights the results of a recent survey outlining the impact of ongoing sequester cuts for The Washington Post in Universities continue to lobby against sequester’s cuts of research funding.

Sarah Reardon writes about big-ticket projects getting cancelled at the National Institutes of Health due to sequestration cuts for Scientific American in 2 “Big Science” NIH Programs Get the Ax.

What’s on Deck

Monday (11/18)

  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) will host a panel discussion, “Leak-Proofing the Innovation Pipeline”, from 12:00-1:30 pm on Capitol Hill. Those interested are asked to RSVP.

Tuesday (11/19)

Wednesday (11/20)

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing on Commercial Space.
  • The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on The Startup Movement.
  • The House Science and National Labs Caucus and the U.S. Particle Physics Community will jointly hold a briefing, A Celebration of the Discovery of the Higgs Boson, from 5:30 – 7:00 pm. Participants are requested to RSVP.

Thursday (11/21)



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