AAAS Policy Alert -- March 20, 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
FY 2013 Appropriations Update. The Senate returned on March 18 to resume debate over the funding of the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Pressure to finalize a revised version of the House bill (H.R. 933) is increasing as the current FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) expires on March 27. The "hybrid" appropriations bill for FY 2013 (H.R. 933) includes both individual appropriations for certain agencies (e.g., Defense) and funding for other agencies at FY 2012 levels under a continuing resolution (e.g., NIH). Over 100 amendments were filed to address a range of parochial interests of Senators, including some that would affect federal research programs. An amendment introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase NIH funding by $211 million failed by a vote of 54-45.
Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) have introduced a number of amendments, including one (SA 65) that would eliminate $10 million for the NSF political science research program and transfer $7 million of that amount to the NIH National Cancer Institute. AAAS issued letters to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (PDF) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) (PDF) opposing the amendment, urging them "to protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise by ensuring that NSF and its independent scientific panels determine where the best scientific opportunities are, including in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences."
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
Another amendment (SA 67) would reduce the number of federal employees allowed to attend any "single conference occurring within the United States" to only 25. However, this amendment may not make it to the floor as Senate leaders attempt to negotiate a smaller number of amendments allowed for consideration, in an attempt to quickly move H.R. 933 to final passage. Once the Senate passes a final bill, the package must be sent back to the House to be approved once again.
FY 2014 Budget Resolution. On March 13 the House Budget Committee approved the budget resolution introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on March 12. The House plan seeks to balance the federal budget in ten years and would extend spending caps on discretionary spending for an additional two years beyond the ten years laid out in the Budget Control Act to FY 2023. In addition, it would place a greater burden on nondefense discretionary spending than on defense discretionary spending. The resolution will move to the full House floor this week for a vote.
On March 14 the Senate Budget Committee approved the budget resolution introduced by Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) (press release here). The Senate measure includes a combination of cuts to both defense and nondefense discretionary spending, with the greater share of the burden falling on the defense side. The Senate bill includes tax increases, whereas the House bill did not. Both budget resolutions passed on party-line votes, indicating that although each budget plan may pass its respective chamber, it appears unlikely that these differing fiscal blueprints will be reconciled into a single comprehensive plan anytime soon.
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013 and the AAAS sequestration report, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Senate Holds National Security Briefing. On March 12 James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified (PDF) before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the intelligence community's assessment of worldwide threats to the U.S. Among other threats, he highlighted cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage as top concerns. He said that although a major nationwide cyber-strike on the U.S. is unlikely within the next two years, other nations and radical groups are already targeting America's more vulnerable networks.
President Advocates Energy Research Fund. President Obama has revealed more information about a proposal for funding clean-energy research first mentioned in his State of the Union address in February. The Energy Security Trust he is proposing would draw $2 billion over ten years from royalties that the federal government receives on oil and gas leases, and use it for research into clean-energy technologies for transportation. The creation of such a program would require congressional approval (more information found here and here).
Oklahoma's Second Anti-Evolution Bill Finished for the Year. Oklahoma House Bill 1674 has failed to progress during this legislative session, like its Senate counterpart, SB 758. Like many such bills, HB 1674 encouraged teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories." It singled out such topics as evolution and climate change as topics that "teachers may be unsure" about how to teach.
DC Government's Decision Illustrates Growth of Wind Power. The District of Columbia government recently signed an agreement with Washington Gas Energy Services, located in Northern Virginia, that will enable its offices to get 100% of their electricity from wind power for at least the next year. This move illustrates the still-nascent but growing importance of wind power in U.S. energy production. A recent article by the Earth Policy Institute reports that among the top ten U.S. states in the percentage of their total electricity generation that is accounted for by wind power, nine of them are at or above the 10% mark, and two -- Iowa and South Dakota -- are nearing 25% of total production accounted for by wind. Although the U.S. ranks second to China in wind capacity, only four countries outside the U.S. -- China, Germany, Spain, and India -- have installed more wind capacity than has the state of Texas, the capacity leader among U.S. states.
CITES Acts to Protect Endangered Species. A recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) resulted in increased protections for several species of sharks and rays (among other species) considered endangered or vulnerable (press release here). The species were approved for Appendix II listing, which allows international trade if measures are in place to ensure survival of the species in the wild (more information here).
People in the News. • Ian M. Ross, former president of Bell Laboratories, one of the world's largest and most productive research institutions for much of the 20th century, died on March 10 at age 85 (more information here).
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Erin Heath, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to email@example.com.