The results from the 2 November 2010 mid-term elections mean big changes for Congress next year. In addition to the Republicans regaining control of the House of Representatives, the 112th Congress will have more than 100 new members. The vast majority of the incoming lawmakers lack extensive political experience. The Washington Post has described the new House as “an everyman’s roost.” The incoming freshmen class of Senators, however, are for the most part veteran politicians who have previously served as elected officials.

These changes may be significant for the nation’s science policy. Several senior members of the House of Representatives who have been strong advocates for investments in science either retired from Congress or were defeated in the mid-term elections. The absence of these champions for science may be particularly significant given the cohort of recently elected Tea Partiers and Republicans who campaigned with promises of budget cuts. The campaign platform that many House Republicans ran on promised to “cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.”

Action on climate change may also be impacted, as most of the new members oppose action to address climate change. In a speech given the day after the election, President Obama signaled his intention to abandon cap-and-trade, at least for now. “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way,” said the President. “I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.” Some policymakers are hoping to take smaller steps to mitigate climate change, such as increasing energy production from renewable sources and nuclear power — options that have bipartisan support.

Efforts to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as “No Child Left Behind,” could also be impacted. Some policy experts predict that there will be greater pressure to reduce the federal government’s role in education. Despite this, bipartisan support for education reform is likely. Republican lawmakers have already expressed support for central elements of the Obama administration’s education plan, including promoting charter schools, linking teacher pay to student test scores, and providing greater flexibility to successful school districts.

 


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