AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 13, Issue 24, November 19, 2012
Three-Way Race to Lead House Science Committee
The contest to become the next leader of the House Science, Space, and
Technology Committee is heating up. Three Representatives are vying for the
position, which will be vacated by current chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) at the
end of this year. All three congressman have served on the committee for
more than twenty years.
A Texan could once again chair the committee if Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is
selected. Smith currently chairs the Judiciary Committee, but is facing a
term limit. Under his leadership, Congress passed a bipartisan patent reform
bill last year. He also played a central role in a failed attempt this fall
to reform immigration laws affecting scientists and engineers. NASA and
energy are other issues of interest to the congressman.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) is the committee's current
vice-chairman. He chaired the committee from 1997-2001. Sensenbrenner more
recently served as the senior Republican on the House Select Committee on
Energy Independence and Global Warming, a post that he used to broadcast his
skepticism about climate change. The congressman told ScienceInsider that he
would want the House Science Committee to be a more active player in
Congress, "particularly in terms of how to stretch the science research
dollars at a time of obvious austerity." Another issue of keen interest is
space; Sensenbrenner was active in that policy area during his previous term
as science chair.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is an active member of the committee who has
previously chaired two of its subcommittees. His skepticism of human
contributions to climate change and criticism of China are well known. Among
his priorities for the committee would be reauthorization of NASA and the
National Science Foundation, as well as international collaboration on
science. Rohrabacher's legislative interests also include aerospace and wise
use of government funds.
Hall has been the top Republican on the panel for almost six years. He
served as ranking member for four years before becoming chair in 2011 when
the Republicans gained a majority in the House. Rules set by the House
Republicans limit members of their caucus to serving as chair and/or ranking
member for no more than six years. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is the
panel's ranking member; she is expected to retain that position in the new
Congress. The Republican caucus will select committee chairs this month
after the House Republican Steering Committee puts forth its
Elections to Bring Change and Stasis
The culmination of the lengthy 2012 election season has brought some change
to Congress. A dozen new Senators and roughly 80 new Representatives will be
sworn in as part of the 113th Congress in January.
In the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for election,
many lawmakers who are strong supporters of science have been reelected.
* Appropriators Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who
currently oversee the subcommittee responsible for providing funds for the
National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, and other agencies, both return to Congress.
* Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Jim Moran (D-VA) were
reelected; they are currently the top members on the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.
* Congressman and physicist Rush Holt (D-NJ), who is one of only a
handful of scientists and engineers in Congress, cruised to victory.
* Former Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) was elected after a
two-year hiatus from Congress. Foster is a physicist who previously served
one term in the House.
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee can expect major changes
based on the election results. Ten of the current 36 committee members will
not return to Congress in the new year.
* Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and
Chip Cravaack (R-MN) were defeated in the general election.
* Representatives Sandy Adams (R-FL), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), and Ben
Quayle (R-AZ) did not win their primary earlier in the year.
* Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) ran unsuccessfully for Senate.
* Three additional committee members are retiring: Representatives
Jerry Costello (D-IL), Brad Miller (D-NC), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
In the Senate, only a third of the chamber's 100 seats were up for election.
Twenty-one incumbents won reelection.
* The Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee will change in the 113th Congress. Senators Kay
Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are retiring. Hutchison is
the current ranking member of the full committee. Snowe is the lead
Republican on the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
* Science and Space Subcommittee Chair Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) won
reelection in what was predicted to be a difficult race.
* Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) easily won
* Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Senator Jeff
Bingaman (D-NM) is retiring in January.
* Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who chairs the Environment Subcommittee
on Water and Wildlife, won reelection.
Despite the anticipated new faces, many aspects of the legislative branch
will remain unchanged. Democrats will retain control of the Senate and
Republicans will still be the majority party in the House. Moreover, the
same issues facing the nation before the election, including the fiscal
cliff, unfinished 2013 appropriations, and the looming debt limit, still
must be addressed.
AIBS Video Explains Implications of the Fiscal Cliff for Science
After a protracted and contentious election, our nation's political leaders
now face the daunting task of addressing the fiscal cliff.
Unless lawmakers take action, the policies encompassed in the fiscal cliff
will automatically go into effect this January. Included are tax increases
and federal budget cuts. Federal science programs would be subject to at
least an 8 percent reduction in funding next year-a $12 billion cut.
Although these policies will help to reduce the deficit, they could also
harm the nation's fragile economic recovery, and some economists warn that
the policy would trigger a new recession.
Watch a short video presented by the American Institute of Biological
Sciences about the fiscal cliff and how it would impact science:
Request for Comments: Draft Implementation Plan for a Network Integrated
The biocollections community is currently engaged in an important process to
develop an Implementation Plan that will guide the multi-year effort to
create a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance.
The Implementation Plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance
builds upon the work of an earlier report: A Strategic Plan for Establishing
a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. The Strategic Plan issues a
strong and urgent call for an aggressive, sustained, coordinated, and
large-scale effort to digitize the nation's biological collections in order
to mobilize their data (including images) through the Internet.
The draft Implementation Plan outlines the actions, timelines, and
milestones required to achieve these goals. It was developed by a writing
team drawn from the participants in a September 2012 workshop of experts in
biocollections, digitization, computer science, and other relevant fields.
The workshop was co-organized by James Hanken and Lucinda McDade and
convened by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with support from
the National Science Foundation.
A draft of the Implementation Plan is now available for public comment at
=e8dd735b2c&e=969688a9a0> . Members of the biological collections community
and other stakeholders are encouraged to review the plan and submit comments
to the comment section of the website or via email to publicpol...@aibs.org.
Comments must be received by 26 November 2012.
BP Oil Spill Settlement Includes Billions for Restoration, Science
The Department of Justice announced last week that it had reached a
settlement with BP regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident. The energy
company will pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties to settle its
role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Included in that sum is $2.4 billion
for environmental restoration and conservation in the Gulf region, which
will be administered by the independent National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation. BP will also provide $350 million to the National Academy of
Sciences to support a 30-year initiative to develop oil spill prevention and
response technologies, research, education, and training.
The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a federal judge, will be
separate from the civil fines BP faces under the Clean Water Act. The
company could pay up to $20 billion under that law, funds that would be used
for ecological and economic restoration activities in the Gulf.
New Foreign Aid Grants Take a 'DARPA' Approach
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded grants to
seven universities in the U.S. and abroad to support innovative and cost
effective ways to improve quality of life in developing countries. The
program will receive $130 million over five years, plus matching funds from
"This is USAID trying to build a DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency] for development," says Alex Dehgan, the agency's science adviser.
DARPA is a military research program that has been successful in backing
high-risk, high reward projects. Among its successes is the creation of the
Funded "development labs" will focus on activities such as the intersection
of poverty, conflict, and food insecurity; resilience of African communities
against natural and political stresses; and technologies to improve
* The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is inviting
stakeholders to submit suggestions for projects to enhance plant
pest/disease detection. Suggestions will be accepted through 7 December
2012. More information is available at
* The White House Fellows Program is now accepting applications for
the 2013-2014 class. The one-year paid fellowship provides an opportunity to
experience working with top-ranking government officials. The application
deadline if 15 January 2013. More information is available at