Appropriations Update. Last week the Senate voted on two proposals to fund the federal government through the end of FY 2011: H.R.1 as passed by the House, and the Senate amendment to H.R.1. As expected, both bills failed. Senate leaders called on the House to produce a counter-offer to the Senate amendment, which had included $51 billion in cuts from the FY 2011 request, about half of the $100 billion in cuts in the House-passed H.R.1. The House countered with a three-week continuing resolution (CR), H.J.Res.48, containing $6 billion in additional cuts and funding the government through April 8, reasoning that one week would not be enough time to reach a compromise before the current CR expires on March 18. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated his support for the House's proposed CR, but many agree that the cuts contained in this CR are the last that the House and Senate can easily agree on, signaling that future CRs may not receive similar bipartisan support.
Congressional Republicans have indicated that entitlement reform could be part of their alternative to the President's FY 2012 budget request or in a bill to raise the debt ceiling. The national debt is expected to reach its legal ceiling in late March or early April. Raising the age requirement for Social Security benefits is one of the more frequent ideas being discussed, but other options are being considered as well.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets.
Other Congressional News
House Panel Passes Bill to Limit EPA's Ability to Regulate Emissions . The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on climate change science last week that cited AAAS's climate change statement and a climate statement by 18 scientific societies including AAAS. Two days later the subcommittee passed H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, along party lines. The bill would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the EPA from promulgating any regulation "concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes." The bill would also repeal EPA's Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases rule and its Endangerment Finding, the agency's scientific basis for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. A full committee markup is scheduled for this week.
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Senate Passes Patent Reform Measure. On March 8 the Senate passed the America Invents Act ( S. 23 ), described in last week's Policy Alert. The bill now heads to the House, where Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is reportedly drafting his own version.
Senate Committee Passes SBIR Bill. On March 10 the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee passed the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 493), readying the bill for a floor vote. The legislation, introduced by committee chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and ranking member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would increase the amount of set-asides that federal research agencies contribute to the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs from 2.5% to 3.5% over a ten-year period.
Bill Introduced to Promote Women in Science. On March 2 the Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act of 2011 (H.R. 889) was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the House, Science and Space Committee. The legislation would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collect demographic data on federal grant awardees including information on gender, race, age, and tenure/rank. It would also require the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to conduct workshops on mechanisms for minimizing gender bias in the evaluation of federal research grant proposals. The bill is similar to language that Rep. Johnson had included as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act but which was removed during the final conference negotiations with the Senate.
Conflict-of-Interest Regulation Goes to OMB for Review. The long-awaited Public Health Service revised regulation on conflict of interest, first proposed in May 2009, has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review. It is tentatively scheduled for final issuance in April.
DOE Launches Quadrennial Review of Energy. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced during a Senate Budget Committee hearing that his department is developing a Quadrennial Energy Review. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) suggested such a review in a report released last year entitled Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy.
Federal Agencies to Incorporate Climate Adaptation. The White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued instructions for agencies to engage in climate change adaptation planning, as recommended by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force in its October 2010 Progress Report to the President. Each agency will have to name a senior official responsible for carrying out climate change adaptation planning actions, create a climate change adaptation policy intended to increase agency understanding of climate change, as well as to evaluate and learn from experiences.
FDA Panel Considers Commercial Genetic Tests. The Molecular and Clinical Genetics Panel of the Food and Drug Administration's Medical Devices Advisory Committee convened last week to consider when genetic tests can be marketed directly to consumers and when they would require the involvement of a physician. Except for nutrigenetic tests (which identify and characterize gene variants associated with differential responses to nutrients), the committee members found that genetic tests that could potentially inform medical care should require a doctor's involvement for ordering and interpreting the tests. The FDA will consider the panel's advice as it drafts regulations on consumer-directed genetic tests.
Investigation of Failed NASA Satellite Launch. NASA named members to a board that will investigate the failed launch of Glory, a satellite that would have collected climate data. It is suspected that the launch of Glory, built by Orbital Sciences Inc., failed for the same reasons as the Orbiting Climate Observatory satellite. Bradley C. Flick, director of the Research and Engineering Directorate at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, will lead the board.
Supreme Court Lets Conviction of Animal Rights Extremists Stand. Closing a chapter on the most visible prosecution of animal rights extremists to date, the Supreme Court on March 7 refused to hear the case Kjonaas et.al. v. United States. The case involves the successful prosecution, by then-United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Chris Christie (now governor of New Jersey), of seven defendants who were tried under the federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act for harassing a variety of individuals who were directly or remotely tied to the animal testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). The group, referred to as the SHAC 7 (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), was part of an international attempt to close HLS, and claimed they were exercising their free speech rights under the First Amendment. The Department of Justice opposed the Court taking up this case.
Anti-evolution Bills Introduced in Florida, Texas. A bill introduced March 5 in Florida's Senate seeks to require a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in public schools. The bill's sponsor, Stephen R. Wise, introduced similar legislation in 2009. In Texas, a House bill introduced last week states that, if enacted, "an institute of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize" a faculty member or student who conducts intelligent design research.
UK Increases Translational Medicine Funding. The UK's National Institute for Health Research will receive up to £775 million for translational medicine over the next five years, starting in April 2012. This would represent a 30% increase over the previous five-year period.
China's Draft Five-Year Plan Would Raise R&D Spending Significantly. The draft of China's 12 th Five-Year Plan was submitted to the National People's Congress for review. The plan has targets for innovation, energy, and the environment, including raising expenditures on R&D to 2.2% of GDP (up from 1.7% currently); cutting carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 17%; cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16%; and raising the use of non-fossil fuels to account for over 11% of primary energy consumption.
Creation of EU Unitary Patent System Approved. On March 10 European Union (EU) Competition ministers authorized a proposal for EU Member States to create a unitary patent system. The proposal was adopted by all Member States except Spain and Italy, and means that future patents will be automatically valid throughout the EU Member States. Ministers hope that this new system will foster economic growth. The official languages of the new patent system will be English, French, and German, and Spain and Italy will have the chance to opt-in to the system. Over the next few weeks, the European Commission will release further details on creating the system.
European Commission Releases Low Carbon Roadmap. The European Commission released a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 40, 60, and 80-95% from 1990 levels by 2030, 2040, and 2050 respectively. The plan also calls for reducing 2020 emissions by 25%, rather than the currently planned 20%. The Commission seeks to achieve these targets largely through increased energy efficiency and reliance upon locally produced energy, mostly from renewable sources.
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