Moving Policy Forward; Avoiding Sequestration

Congress and the President are entering the home stretch.  Are they ready to play or will they strike out?

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Capitol News.

  • Congress: Recalcitrant Cancer Act, Oil & Gas Subsidies; Senate Commerce; House Appropriations; Student Loans; Energy Efficiency Bill; Carbon Tax
  • Administration & Independent Agencies: Student Loans; Offshore Leases; Grad Students Abroad; FDA Public-Private Partnership; NASA, NIH & Biomedical Workforce, Interior Payouts; Immigrant Entrepreneurs.
  • Courts:  Supreme Court and Supervisors.

Noteworthy News: Teacher Exams; Energy Exports; Charter Grants; Loan Confusion; Stem Cells; Jobs and Education; Doctorate Blues

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

CAPITOL NEWS: Congressional, Administrative, and Court Actions


  • Defense Bill & Amendments: The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY13 which funds defense activities for the fiscal year.  The Senate bill, which must be reconciled with the House version, includes several amendments, including The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act (RCRA). The RCRA, which has its critics because it interferes with NIH management, requires NIH to create frameworks for cancers with poor survival rates (five-year rates of less than 50 percent), primarily pancreatic and lung cancer.
  • Led by Congressman Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, over 70 Democrat House Members sent President Obama and House Speaker Boehner a letter urging them to end tax breaks and loopholes for the oil and gas industry in any deals on sequestration.
  • The retirement of Senator DeMint (R-SC), a Tea Party favorite, to head The Heritage Foundation leaves a vacancy for the top Republican spot of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  Next in line appears to be Senator Thune (R-SD), a current Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.  The Committee has jurisdiction over issues related to NASA, NOAA, NIST, OSTP, and NSF.
  • After a heated battle for Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Lowey (D-NY) prevailed over Congresswoman Kaptur (D-OH).  She is the first female Ranking Member or Chair of this influential Committee.  The Hill provides an analysis of why Kaptur, who has seniority on the Committee but is known to buck Democratic Leadership, lost to Lowey.
  • Student Loans.  Congressman Petri (R-WI) plans to introduce legislation to allow student loan borrowers to have payments withdrawn from paychecks of instead of having to deal with private agency collectors.  By eliminating the requirement for Department of Education to retain these private agencies, the legislation aims to address serious and significant complaints of unseemly tactics by the private agencies.  According to Bloomberg, the legislation, which resembles plans used in Australia and the UK, would cap repayment amounts to 15 percent of income after basic living expenses.
  • Energy Efficiency in the House & Senate.  The House almost unanimously passed a Republican sponsored bill, American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act, which combined several sections of Senate and House energy bills, as described by Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit that advocates for energy efficiency.  Some provisions in the legislation include ones that address research & development of efficiency technologies and best practices for metering.  The bill also passed the Senate, and the President is expected to sign it into law.
  • Carbon Tax.  The Republican approach to a carbon tax is hardly uniform.  Despite growing interest from policy makers off the Hill, many Hill Republicans still oppose a tax, as discussed in the posting, So Much To Do.  Representative McKinley (R-WV) introduced a resolution blocking a carbon tax on fuels for electricity and transportation.


  • Student Loans: The Department of Education begins its income-contingent repayment plan (Pay As You Earn) on December 21, 2012.  Under the Program, students who took loans may have monthly payments capped at 10 percent of their discretionary income and completely forgiven after 20 years.
  • Offshore Leases.  Department of Interior, for the first time, will lease offshore lands for development of renewable energy.  In this case, the leases are targeted for the development of wind energy on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia.  The competitive sales will be held next year.
  • Students Abroad.  The National Science Foundation announced a new program Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide or GROW, a program that furthers opportunities for NSF Graduate Research Fellows to work with science agencies in other nations.  Students can work abroad for three to twelve months in Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, or Sweden.
  • FDA Public-Private Partnership.  The Food and Drug Administration created a new partnership to further medical device regulatory science. According to the press release, the “Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) is an independent, nonprofit corporation, created by LifeScience Alley (LSA), a biomedical science trade association. The MDIC will receive input from industry, government, and other nonprofit organizations. MDIC will prioritize the regulatory science needs of the medical device community and fund projects to help simplify the process of medical device design and pathway to market for these innovations.”
  • NASA In Trouble?  According to the National Research Council (NRC) report, NASA an agency lacking definition and direction.  As reported in The Washington Post, the NRC found NASA “faces challenges in nearly all of its primary endeavors” and that NASA’s budget does not match its charged missions.
  • NIH and Biomedical Research.  NIH announced new initiatives to address the challenges facing the biomedical research community. The initiatives are part of a plan to address major challenges.  The plan actions will focus on three areas: diversity in the biomedical research workforce; the future biomedical research workforce; and data and informatics.
  • Interior Payout.  As energy production on public lands increased, so did payments from the Department of Interior.  Interior paid state, federal and tribal accounts $12.15 billion ($1 billion more than last year) in revenue from energy production from public and offshore lands.
  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs.  The White House launched an online resource center, Entrepreneur Pathways, to provide tools to understand opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs to start and expand businesses in the US.


  • Several higher education groups filed briefs in the Supreme Court case of Vance v. Ball State University encouraging the Supreme Court to adopt a definition of a supervisor that is consistent with the higher education workplace, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. If the Court’s ruling broadly defines supervisors in the education context, the ruling potentially has significant implications for higher education institutions liabilities.


  • Universal Teacher Test.  The American Federation of Teachers, in its report Raising the Bar, proposed that all new teachers must be certified through a national exam. According to Inside Higher Education, the report also calls for more stringent standards for teacher education programs and graduates ned to show subject matter mastery.
  • Energy Exports.   According to a new report commissioned by the Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy, the U.S. “was projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing LNG exports. Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased.”  The report is now subject to public review and comment.
  • Charter School Grants.  The Gates Foundation, in its push for charter schools, despite evidence that they generally do not lead to overall improvement in student performance and remove funding from public schools, announced $25 million in grants to cities to increase cooperation between public schools and privately-run charters, according to The New York Times.
  • Loan Confusion.  According to a report from the Center for American Progress, high school students and their families struggle to understand the Obama Administrations College Scorecard, an online resource that provides data on such items as costs, graduation rates an student debt for US universities and colleges.  The CAP report suggests more testing and tweaking of the program is necessary.
  • Stem Cell Team.  Universities and drug companies are teaming up to create an adult stem cell repository called StemBANCC, according to The Wall Street Journal.  The $73 million effort, led by Roche Holding AF and Oxford University, will focus on the development of diseases that are hard to treat.
  • Jobs and Education.  As jobs grow, many that were once available to people without college degrees are now out of reach and the gap in income between those with college degrees and those without has increased.  As reported in a The New York Times blog, employers are more picky as applicants still outnumber available job openings.
  • Doctorate Blues.  New data from NSF reveals that in all disciplines new doctorate recipients are less likely to have a job or postdoc lined up after receiving their degree.  The level was at its lowest level of the past 10 years, with the humanities disciplines reaching its lowest point since 1997.


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2 thoughts on “Moving Policy Forward; Avoiding Sequestration

  1. Pingback: TIC TOC GOES THE CLOCK. WILL CONGRESS REACH A DEAL? « Federal Policy Week


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