FY 2015 Appropriations in Doubt Due to Immigration

President Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration may sink the chances for fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bills to be completed during the lame duck session of Congress. Some Republicans in the House of Representatives are considering ways to prevent the President from taking unilateral action to reform the nation’s immigration policies, including deferring action on pending appropriations bills.

The President recently announced his intentions to reform the immigration system by the end of the year through administrative actions, which would not require congressional approval.

In a closed door session late last week, House majority leaders did not endorse passing a comprehensive spending package, also known as an omnibus, nor did they signal an interest in moving another stop gap spending measure. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters that “all options” are on the table to block the President on immigration.

These latest developments contradict the optimism expressed after the election by congressional leaders of both parties to finalize federal spending for FY 2015 before January, when the new Congress will be sworn in.

The leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are continuing their work to negotiate a FY 2015 spending package. The fate of that bill may depend on the most conservative members of the House, who could force Speaker Boehner to pursue a short-term spending bill that expires early next year.

Meanwhile, nearly all stakeholder groups have been urging Congress to finish FY 2015 appropriations this year. The American Institute of Biological Sciences signed two letters addressed to Congress in support of an omnibus. A letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding stated “The 113th Congress has an important opportunity to continue its commitment to investing in America’s research enterprise by providing sustainable funding for NSF [National Science Foundation] in an FY 2015 Omnibus bill.”

One hundred thirty-three organizations signed another letter that urged Congress to “pass an omnibus FY 2015 appropriations bill this year that includes increased investments in scientific research and higher education needed to help close our nation’s innovation deficit.”

Despite the new fiscal year beginning on 1 October, no appropriations bills have been enacted. Congress reached a deal in September to fund agencies at FY 2014 spending levels through 11 December 2014.

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Slim Prospects for COMPETES Reauthorization

It is looking less likely that Congress will move legislation to reauthorize innovation programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy labs. With only a few weeks left before Congress adjourns, there is little time for Congress to pass legislation.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved H.R. 4186 in May, but the full chamber has not yet debated the bill. A draft of a Senate bill was released in September, but has not yet been formally introduced.

If lawmakers do not act on the issue before the end of the 113th Congress, legislation may face a steeper challenge next year. One of the main proponents of reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), is retiring this year. Rockefeller authored the Senate legislation released this year and was a leader of past COMPETES efforts.

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is the sponsor of the House bill and is expected to continue to serve as chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the next session of Congress.

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Graduate Student Leaders Sought to Shape Science Policy

Applications are being accepted for the 2015 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy. Recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.

Winners receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held in late spring 2015. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.
  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding.
  • Meetings with congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
  • A one-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of “Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media.”
  • An award certificate and membership in the EPPLA alumni network.

The 2015 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

Applications are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Sunday, 18 January 2015. The application can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.

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Funding Opportunity for Gulf of Mexico Research

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has announced the availability of approximately $9 million per year for the next three years to support research on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident on the Gulf of Mexico. The new program, RFP-V, is the second GoMRI initiative to fund research by individual investigators or small teams of researchers.

The RFP-V program will award grants ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000 per year.

Individuals and teams interested in applying for research support under the RFP-V program must submit a Letter of Intent by 5:00 PM Eastern time on 15 December 2014. Full proposals will be due by 13 March 2015. The RFP-V program requirements and guidelines are available online.

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Comments Sought on NSF's Advanced Computing Activities

The National Research Council of the National Academies is currently developing a framework to guide future National Science Foundation (NSF) investments in advanced computing for scientific and engineering research. The study committee is seeking input from the scientific community on their vision for the future of NSF advanced computing in order to inform their recommendations to NSF.

For more on the study, to view the NRC’s interim report, and to submit comments, http://nas.edu/ScienceComputing. Comments should be submitted by 31 January 2015.

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President's Science Advisor Tackles Questions on Climate Change

Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is taking questions about climate science. The White House is using the initiative to answer the public’s questions and to set the record straight about climate change. Anyone can submit a question via Facebook, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram using the hashtag #AskDrH.

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New in BioScience: White House Takes Steps on Climate Adaptation, but Path Forward is Unclear

In the Washington Watch column in the November 2014 issue of the journal BioScience, Kevin Todd highlights congressional recent efforts by the federal government to address climate change.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

At the start of the Obama presidency, many climate change advocates felt that they had an opportunity to achieve meaningful government action on global warming. Although the House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, there was little White House action on this issue during President Obama’s first term. Instead, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change largely took a back seat as the president pursued health-care reform. In his second inaugural address, Obama signaled a shift in focus, stating, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Continue reading the article for free at https://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/11/970.full.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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