Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in education, research, science, agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, and intellectual property. 

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Capitol News: Congressional, Administrative, and Court Actions

CONGRESS: Congressional Retirements; Congressional Committees; Senate Nuclear Pact; Wild Horses; Climate Change and R&D in the House

Administration & independent agencies: Inauguration Speech Highlights; Secretary Kerry, Chimps & NIH; ISS Research; Commerce Secretary

COURTS: Cellulosic Biofuels Ruling

Noteworthy News: Cornell NYC Tech; Energy Tax

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

Capitol News


Congressional Retirements:

Senator Rockefeller, the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senator Harkin, Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee and the Labor HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, announced their plans to retire after their terms end in 2014.  Senator Rockefeller, in his list of priorities for this Congress, included math and science education, which he will be able tackle as he crafts the next version of the America COMPETES Act.  Senator Harkin, by virtue of his chairmanships, will lead the Senate efforts on education, NIH-related legislation, as well as funding for both issues.  Senator Harkin, in his list of priorities for this Congress, included “[m]oving forward with bills to ensure that all Americans are able to achieve the promise of a quality education…”

Congressional Committees.

  • House Judiciary Committee held an organizational meeting in which they set subcommittee assignments.  Most notably, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property are Rep. Coble and Rep. Watt, respectively.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to set Subcommittee assignments on January 31, 2013 (I will update you).
  • House Science Committee also announced its subcommittee Chairs, as previously reported in Obama Administration – Take TwoThe Democrats announced their subcommittee chairs as well.  The following members will chair the subcommittees: Edwards (MD) – Space; Swalwell (CA) – Energy; Bonamici (OR) – Environment; Lipinski (IL) – Research; Wilson (FL) – Technology; and Maffei (NY) – Oversight.  Chairman Smith, according to E&E News, is planning a retreat for the entire Committee to discuss the Committee’s work.
  • Nuclear Pact.  Senator Wyden, the new Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, will take up his predecessor’s (Bingaman) role and join Senators Alexander (TN, Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Energy Subcommittee), Murkowski (AK, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy Committee), and Feinstein (CA, Chairwoman of Senate Appropriations Energy Subcommittee), in the effort to address nuclear waste management. According to The Hill, Wyden’s views may be more in line with the rest of the group.  Unlike Bingaman, he is willing to consider interim storage sites, even without a permanent site.

Wild Horses.  As reported in the posting Obama Administration, Interior released new rules for wild horses they sell.  Now, two Congressmen, Grijalva (D-AZ) and Whitfield (R-KY), are demanding answers from departing Secretary Salazar on what happened to 1,700 federally protected wild horses, according to National Journal.  It is believed the horses were sold to some who shipped them to Mexico for slaughter.

House and Climate Change & R&D.  While immigration appears to be gaining momentum, Congressman Ryan played down the chances of climate change legislation moving in the House, according to The Wall Street Journal.  At the same time, he did endorse government spending on basic research.  Specifically, the article quotes Ryan as saying “on climate change, Mr. Ryan challenged “the efficacy of the so-called remedies” because they won’t achieve their aims without China and India cooperating.  He endorsed government spending on basic research, distinguishing it from “applied research” because “you start getting into corporate welfare, industrial policy stuff.”

Administration & Independent Agencies:

Inauguration Speech Highlights.  For information, see the posting Obama’s Inaugural Speech.

Secretary Kerry. Secretary of State Kerry, in his remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called climate change a major threat to the United States, reports The Washington Post.  Specifically, he stated “that American foreign policy ‘is defined by life-threatening issues like climate change,…’”.  He did not provide any indication on which way he will come down on Keystone XL pipeline extension, to which the Governor of Nebraska just gave his blessing.

Chimps & NIH.  In a long-overdue move in the right direction, NIH announced that is will dramatically reduce the number of studies it funds that use chimpanzees. The move comes in response to an internal working report recommending the dramatic decrease.  As reported by The New York Times some chimps will be retained for possible new research.

ISS ResearchNASA has announced that it is looking for ideas on how to make the International Space Station a better technology test bed.  According to the announcement, “suggested areas include in-space propulsion; space power and energy storage; components of highly reliable, closed-loop, human health, life support and habitation systems; thermal systems; robotics, telerobotics, and autonomous systems; and human exploration destination systems.”

Commerce Secretary.  According to The Washington Post, businesswoman and Obama donor, Penny Pritzker is leading the pack of potential nominees to become the next Secretary of Commerce.  Acting Secretary Blank took over when Secretary Bryson in June resigned over health issues.


Biofuels Rule.  EPA’s biofuel mandate to require incorporation of liquefied cellulosic fuels made from woody crops and wastes into car and truck fuels was throwing out by the DC Court of Appeals, as reported by The New York Times.  EPA mandated the use of these fuels even though currently they are not in production.  The Court limited the ruling to cellulosic fuels, to the delight of producers of other biofuels.


Cornell NYC Tech Center.  A recent The New York Times article details the happenings of the new Cornell NYC Tech graduate school based in New York City, and the school’s focus on commercialization.  The school has forge deep alliances with businesses, with the goal of producing companies from the campus activities.  The article addresses the potential gains and pitfalls of this approach.

Energy Taxes. Support for carbon taxes appears to wane and wax in DC as a tool to combat climate change.  The New York Times provides an assessment of the political views and prospects (not good) on an energy tax, which is concludes could “single-handedly take on climate change” to tackle climate in view of the recent weather disasters.


Upcoming Events (listed by date):

Past Events (listed by date):



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