Immigration, Sequestration, and a Long To-Do-List



With the Presidential and Congressional elections finally over, the status quo remains.  The Republicans maintained control of the House, the Democrats retained control of the Senate, and President Obama will return for a second term. Members of Congress return this week to address unfinished business and the impending “fiscal cliff.”

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Timely Topics: Immigration Deal on Tap?

Capitol News:

Congress: Reid’s TDL; Reid & Climate; Republicans & Direct Loans.

Administration & Independent Agencies: Petroleum Imports; Regulations On Hold?

DC Institutions & Organizations.  Climate & Security; DOD & STEM

Noteworthy News: Dual Use; Two Degrees; Obama & ED; Degree Stats; Geothermal & Storms; NCATS; NIH; CA & Education; House Science Committee; Governors & Wind.

In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events in DC.

Timely Topic: Is Congress Ready to Address Immigration?

As the election results poured in, commitments to address comprehensive immigration reform came from members of both major political parties.  Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Graham (R-SC) announced their plans to develop an immigration plan, according to Huffington Post.  House Speaker Boehner also pledged to work with the White House on comprehensive immigration reform, according The New York Times.

Although prospects are improving for immigration reform, with endorsement from the speaker and key conservative columnists and religious groups, as reported by The Washington Post, passage in the House will still take time and negotiation since not all House Republicans are on board with Boehner. Visas, green cards, and citizenship for immigrants receiving degrees at US universities will like be part of any immigration package.

CAPITOL NEWS: Congressional, Administrative, and Court Actions

Members return to DC and the Administration carries on its business.


  • Senator Reid’s TDL.  Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) announced an extensive to do list for the Senate during the lame duck period.   According to National Journal, the list includes some items of interest to the science, academic, agriculture, and environmental communities.  Of course, Congress must also tackle sequestration.  Included on the list are bills on: cybersecurity, defense authorization, farm bill, judges, tax extenders, Water Resources Development, The Law of the Sea, and tax cuts.
  •  Reid and Climate.   Although Senator Reid did not mention passing climate change legislation on his to do list, he did state at a press conference that in light of the recent weather events “[c]limate change is an extremely important issue for me and I hope we can address it reasonably,” according to National Journal.
  • Direct Loans – Republican Investigation.  House Republican leaders of the Education and Workforce Committee joined with Republican leaders of the Senate HELP Committee to request an investigation of management of the Direct Loan Program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  In their letter to GAO, the Republican members asked GAO to look into complaints from student loan borrowers, including.


  • EIA: Petroleum Imports Down. Data released by the Energy Information Administration in its monthly forecast, petroleum imports in 2013 will fall below 40 percent (it peaked at 60 percent in 2005).  According to The Hill, production of crude oil is also increasing. Much of the increase is due to production in North Dakota and Texas. Gas prices are also projected to decrease.
  • Regulations on Hold?  During the 2012 election year, the Obama Administration has released relatively few new regulations.  Now that the election is over, the guess is that significant regulations in a variety of policy areas, including environment, energy, and financial regulations, will be released.  The regulatory outlook document is several months overdue as well, according to National Journal.


  • NRC Report on Climate and Security.  The National Research Council report “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis,” prepared at the request of the US intelligence community, addresses the question of climate change as a national security concern.  According to the summary the report “offers conclusions and recommendations related to: (a) improving understanding of climate–security linkages; (b) improving monitoring and analysis of the factors linking climate change to social and political stresses and to security risks; and (c) improving the ability to anticipate potential security risks arising from climate phenomena.”
  • DOD and STEM Workforce.  The National Academy of Engineering and the NRC released a report, on the Department of Defense’s recruitment efforts, saying they must be examined and changed to “ensure that the department is fully competitive with all sectors of American industry and the global STEM marketplace.” Recommended activities included a more effective hiring process, reviewing citizenship requirements for certain fields, and education of highly capable individuals without STEM degrees, according to the press release.


  • Dual Use in Life Sciences Research: Several university groups and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a new report “Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research: A Discussion about Dual Use Research Review and Oversight at Research Institutions,” that addresses oversight of dual use life sciences research.  The report delves into best practices, challenges and possible solutions to problems associated with restrictions on research.
  • Climate – Recovery Possible?  A PricewaterhouseCoopers report “Too Late for Two Degrees” explores the possibility that we cannot meet goal (agreed to in 2009 at COP-15) of a 50% probability of limiting the global temperature increase to just two degrees from pre-industrial levels.  The report states “global carbon intensity now needs to be cut by an average of 5.1% a year from now to 2050.”  That is a major increase from 2010-11, which saw a reduction of only 0.7%.
  • Obama and ED. President Obama has a second term ahead of him and his education agenda for higher education will likely be a continuation of the last four years, with emphasis on college completion, attendance, and accountabilityInside Higher Education provides a nice summary of what to expect in from Obama over the next four years.  Inside Higher Education also explores leadership for higher education issues in the next Administration.
  • More Degrees in Sight.  A Pew Research Center report shows that more young adults are getting college degrees.  For the first time, in 2012, one-third of adults aged 25-29 years have a bachelor’s degree.  In addition, over 60% have some college and 90% of Americans in this age range have completed high school. The increases occurred in all segments of the population (race and gender).
  • Is Geothermal the Answer? The New York Times explores the possibility that geothermal systems, which involve an underground network of pipes, may be a viable alternative in the face of severe storms because of they are underground.  They have the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint of a building.  Not all locations, such as areas where the wells must be drilled deep because of lack of land, are suitable for geothermal.
  • NCATS on Record.  In an interview with Christopher Austin, the new head of National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH by Science Insider, Austin discusses the mission, plans and goals.  Despite some misgivings with NCATS, Congress funded it (NCATS budget is $575 Million)
  • NIH Funding, by Location.  If you are interested in knowing the geographic distribution of NIH funding, The Atlantic Cities provides a breakdown of NIH funding by region (usually several cities grouped together).  The top three locations over the past two decades have remained the same, Boston-Cambridge, NY-NJ and LA, although the order changed (Boston-Cambridge ranked first in 2011 and was second behind NY-NJ in 1992)
  • Education Cuts Off in CA.  Californians agreed to higher taxes to support education in Tuesday’s election.  As reported by The New York Times, the ballot measure will provide $42 billion ($6 billion annually over seven years) from increased taxes (on those earning more than $250,000 and a small increase in the sales tax) to the budget.
  • House Science Leadership.  Leadership of several key Congressional committees will change due to election results, retirements, and term-limits. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is no exception.  With Chairman Hall (R-TX) facing term limits, Representatives Smith (R-TX) and Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) may be vying for the Chairmanship.
  • Governors and Wind.  With the wind production tax credit set to expire at the end of the year, lobbying for an extension continues.  As reported by National Journal, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan coalition of Governors, held an event to press its case for extension.


Upcoming Events (listed by date):

Events Last Week:


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