Bills in Brief

In this bridges Bills in Brief, learn about R&D funding and sequestration, President Obama's and Mitt Romney's positions on issues in S&T, and the House rejection of the bill that would grant visas to STEM graduates.

STC Newletter Logo The bridges Bills in Brief is brought to you, in part, by the Science and Technology in Congress Newsletter, a publication of the AAAS Office of Government Relations, covering the latest science-related news on Capitol Hill.

bridges vol. 35, October 2012 / Bills in Brief: US S&T Policy News


Congress Passes Continuing Resolution as Sequestration Concerns Ratchet Up

To avoid an October 1 government shutdown, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded and operating through March 2013. The Senate voted 62-30 to approve the CR in a midnight vote September 22, following the House's 329-91 vote on September 13. With a few exceptions, the continuing resolution grants a very small (0.62 percent) increase to federal appropriations across the board, bringing funding up to the $1,047 trillion spending level agreed to in last year's debt-ceiling agreement. For research and development (R&D), the CR grants a larger increase for atomic weapons R&D activities at the Department of Energy, essentially meeting the President's request in this category, and provides an additional $100 million for domestic uranium enrichment R&D. Additionally, the CR makes provisions to ensure that the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite System remain on their planned launch schedules. These changes bring annualized R&D funding levels up to $141.7 billion, a increase of 0.8 percent or $1.2 billion above FY 2012 levels, according to AAAS estimates (PDF), compared to an expected inflation rate of 1.7 percent.

Read the full story here.

Obama, Romney Define S&T Priorities

Democrats and Republicans released their respective party platforms during their National Conventions in August and September, and both President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney submitted answers to a series of science questions posed by AAAS and other scientific societies. "The Top American Science Questions: 2012" includes a side-by-side comparison of the presidential candidates' responses to inquiries on:

  • Innovation
  • Climate Change
  • Research and the Future
  • Pandemics and Insecurity
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Food
  • Fresh Water
  • The Internet
  • Ocean Health
  • Science in Pubic Policy
  • Space
  • Critical Natural Resources
  • Vaccination and Public Health

Read the full story here.

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House Rejects Bill to Grant Visas to STEM Graduates

In September, the House of Representatives failed to pass the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429), which would have created a new visa category for up to 55,000 Ph.D. and masters degree graduates in disciplines related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The bill would also have held the total number of legal immigrants to the United States constant by eliminating a current program that grants 50,000 visas based on a lottery of applicants (known as diversity visas). The bill was proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) as a strategy to keep US-trained scientists and engineers in the United States after they graduate. "Under the current system," Smith argued, "we educate scientists and engineers only to send them back home where they often work for our competitors."

Read the full story here.

In other STEM legislation:

In August, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2012 (S. 3475). The act would authorize $10 million in fiscal years 2013, 2014, and 2015 for National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to nonprofit organizations and university departments that carry out "activities designed to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM]." Such activities include online workshops, mentoring and outreach programs, and internships for undergraduate and graduate STEM students.


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