Congress finished essential business this week. The House and Senate passed the Continuing Resolution, or CR, to keep the Federal Government running before leaving town. Congress will return in November after the election.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
–Congress Funds Federal Government for Six Additional Months.
–Congress: Legislation Providing Green Cards for STEM Grads Fails; Cancer Research Act; Coal and Regulations; CR & Agricultural Conservation Programs.
–The Administration: More NCLB Waivers; Ending Chimp Research?
–New Pharma Non-profit
–AAU Report for Candidates
— New Women’s Online Mentoring Initiative
— Medicine in 2046
In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events & Last Week’s Hearings.
Timely Topics: Congress Will Pass A Continuing Resolution.
As mentioned in the last blog, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution or CR to fund the federal government programs. The Senate just passed the identical CR, which provides funds at a total rate of operations equal to $1.047 trillion until March 27, 2013. This funding level is in line with the cap set in the Budget Control Act for FY13. This amount exceeds the House’s self-imposed budget cap for discretionary spending by $19 billion, and $8 billion larger than FY12. According to the House Appropriations Committee summary, there are provisions to allow spending for natural disasters or equivalent emergency measures. Notably, some programs, like agricultural conservation programs, that have limited enrollment for the next six months because of the CR does not provide increases over FY12 numbers (see story below).
When Congress returns after the election on November 6, 2012, all eyes will turn to a few pieces of legislation set to expire. Most importantly, the Congress has until the end of the calendar year to pass a spending-tax bill to avoid triggering an automatic $1.2 trillion sequestration (half coming from defense funding). Check out the next blog for additional details on the pending sequestration. In the meantime, if you are interested in what all the budget terms mean, check out the Glossary of Budget Terms by clicking on the link to the right under “Databases & Glossaries.”
Capitol News: Legislation, Administrative Actions, and Court Action.
Members are back in DC, holding hearings and voting on legislation, including the Continuing Resolution described above.
—Immigration and STEM Graduates: In the last blog posting, I mentioned a new bill introduced by Congressman Smith (R-TX), which Smith introduced after negotiations broke down between him and Senator Schumer (D-NY). Congressman Smith’s STEM JOBS ACT of 2012 would have ended the diversity visa program and transferred those visas to a new type of green card for recipients of advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The House of Representatives did not pass the Act. In a recent opinion piece, Congressman Smith explained “[f]or America to be the world’s economic leader, we must have access to the world’s best talent.” Congresswoman Lofgren (D-CA) introduced a similar bill that differs by not ending the diversity visa program and not extending the new green cards to graduates of for-profit schools.
—Cancer Research Act: The House passed the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012, legislation that mandates the National Cancer Institute at NIH to develop a long-term plan for recalcitrant cancers (cancers with low survival rates), including pancreatic and lung cancer. The Senate HELP Committee also held a hearing on the companion bill, which is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the President.
—Coal and Regulations: The House of Representatives passed Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012, a bill that limits the power of the federal government to use environmental regulations, specifically the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Clean Air Act. It is not expected to advance in the Senate.
—The CR and Agriculture Conservation: The CR stymied several agricultural conservation programs by not allowing for increased acreage enrollment, thereby losing an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to converse land, water and air quality. For example, as described by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, for the Conservation Stewardship Program, “the CR effectively prevents USDA from abiding by the 2008 Farm Bill mandate to enroll 12.8 million acres in the program in FY 2013.”
—More NCLB Waivers from ED: The Department of Education (ED) announced that more states have applied for waivers from requirements under No Child Left Behind. To date, 44 states have applied for the waiver (33 states and DC have already been approved). In exchange for the waivers, states must develop plans that include, among other requirements, assessments of teachers and plans to prepare all children for college.
—NIH Moves Toward Eliminating Chimpanzees in Research: NIH announced plans to retire approximately a fifth of its chimpanzees used in medical research next year. By removing all 110 chimps from the controversial New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, NIH will still allow medical research on 453 chimpanzees. As reported by The Washington Post, this decision is consistent with “an influential report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called nearly all medical research with the great apes unnecessary.”
—Gifted Education: As federal education policy focuses on making sure all children reach minimum levels on standard exams, one group may be losing out. A recent opinion piece in the NY Times, alleges gifted students fail to receive the education they need and deserve. This piece raises important questions about educating gifted children, even if the solutions are not widely embraced.
—New Pharma Non-profit: Ten Pharma companies formed a new, non-profit organization TransCelerate BioPharma, which will concentrate on speeding up new medicine development. The interim-CEO described the goal of the new group is “to work together across the global research and development community and share research and solutions that will simplify and accelerate the delivery of exciting new medicines for patients,” according to an article in cNBC.
—AAU Agenda for Presidential Candidates: American Association of Universities released an agenda for the Presidential candidates that it calls for “strengthening the partnership between the federal government and the nation’s research universities as a means of fostering innovation, prosperity, and economic growth.” The agenda includes proposals related to the Nation’s economy, student financial aid, immigration, research funding, and technology transfer.
—New Women’s Online Mentoring Initiative: STEM education remains a priority for policy makers in DC. A new initiative, called WitsOn! or Women in Technology Sharing Online, is a pilot online program with the goal of connecting women in academia and industry with undergraduate students seeking STEM degrees. It begins October 1, 2012 and will last six weeks.
—Vouchers and College Enrollment. Debate continues over how use of vouchers impact student success. A recent study released by Brookings concluded that vouchers to private schools lead to higher college attendance and enrollment rates of African American students. but that conclusion remains questionable, as noted in this Chronicle of Higher Education piece.
—Medicine in 2046: Where will medicine be in 34 years? NIH Director Francis Collins predicts major breakthroughs that will fundamentally change the doctor-patient relationship and treatment. Technology will lead to major advances, including with Stem Cells. Read more about Dr. Collins’ predictions in USA Today.
IN THE KNOW: Upcoming Events & Hearings this past week.
Events (listed by date):
–Council on Competitiveness: The Changing Outlook for U.S. Energy, Washington, DC September 24, 2012
–Heritage Foundation: Supreme Court Preview: 2012 Term, Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012
–ITIF: Innovation Consensus: Inovation Economics, Friday October 5, 2012
Week of September 17 – September 21, 2012
Thursday, September 20
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Education and the Workforce
Committee on Energy & Commerce
Committee on Judiciary
Wednesday, September 19
Commerce, Science and Transportation
Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.