Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fedeal Update for Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Ceiling Update:  The U.S. Senate convened at 10:30 a.m., August 1, and hopes to vote first (perhaps as soon as late in the afternoon) on the deal announced last night to raise the debt limit beyond the 2012 election while mandating at least $2 trillion in spending cuts.  The Congressional Budget Office projected that the bipartisan debt limit deal announced on Sunday would trim at least $2.1 trillion off the deficit over the next decade. CBO said $917 billion of those cuts stem from an immediate 10-year cap on appropriations, while another $1.2 trillion would come from future spending reductions under a new congressional committee and the possibility of sequestration.

The U.S. House convened at 10 a.m., and at noon will begin a debating a series of non-controversial bills until the whip teams in both parties are confident they have the votes between them to pass the debt and deficit legislation.

President Obama is spending the day working the phone to round up as many Democratic congressional votes as possible for the deal. Vice President Biden is at the Capitol to sell the deal to fellow Democrats.  

The hottest month ever recorded in Washington is over — but only meteorological speaking.  July has also been one of the hottest months in the history of Washington politics and fiscal policy, which won't be over for several more hours and maybe not until tomorrow. And there's still more than a little suspense about how the record books will end up recording the moment.

Passage by the Senate is locked down with Senators McConnell and Reid each have every reason to be confident of "yes" votes from solid majorities of their caucuses.  

The formula for making a majority in the House is not as clear, and it gets more complicated every hour the bill lies out in the sunshine — where it will be poked at and spurned by more and more advocacy groups and their congressional allies at both ends of the ideological spectrum.

The situation makes Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has spent so much of the year in a remarkably diminished posture, the indispensable woman for the next day. With the help of her rival and deputy, Whip Steny Hoyer, they will need to find probably as many as 64 Democrats — one-third of the Democratic caucus — willing to vote for a deal that they are skeptical about doing anything for the party's priorities.  

The number could need to be that big because Speaker Boehner is going to lose at least triple and maybe even four times the Republicans he lost when his plan passed on Friday. The Speaker's own endorsement of the package last night in a conference with his caucus is not going to be enough to bring along even a majority of the tea party freshmen on the second round.  Speaker Boehner said, "Now listen, this isn't the greatest deal in the world, but it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town."  If as many as 88 Republicans vote "no" in the end, that means only 152 will vote "yes."  That is 64 votes short of 216, the magic majority-guaranteeing number for the moment.  

If the debt crisis-averting deal becomes law by the Tuesday night deadline, then Congress could be sent home for the summer recess as soon as the next day, or two days ahead of schedule.

NSF Launches New Innovation Program:  The National Science Foundation (NSF) on July 28 launched a new program to help develop basic scientific and engineering discoveries into new technologies, products, and processes.  The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program is a public-private partnership among the NSF, Kauffman Foundation, and Deshpande Foundation.  The goal of the program, according to the NSF press release, is to "connect NSF-funded scientific research with the technological, entrepreneurial and business communities to help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development and societal needs."

The I-Corps program will initially support 100 projects per year, at $50,000 per award.  The program places a $5,000 limit on facilities and administrative cost reimbursement for all I-Corps program recipients.

Each grant will support an I-Corps team, composed of a principal investigator, a mentor, and an entrepreneurial lead.  Over a period of six months, each team will determine what resources are needed to move research to the stage of technology development, as well as evaluate competing technologies and determine the value that the I-Corps-supported technology would add to the marketplace.  While I-Corps proposals will be evaluated using the standard merit review criteria approved by the National Science Board -- Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts -- they will also be evaluated on two additional criteria: the potential impact on the market and the time horizon to impact.

NSF anticipates investing $1.25 million of its FY 2011 appropriation in the I-Corps program.  The Foundation also expects to secure private investments for the program in FY 2011 and 2012.  

State Department Names New Science & Technology Adviser:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 22 named Dr. E. William (Bill) Colglazier as her Science & Technology Adviser.  Congress established the position of Science & Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State in 2000; Dr. Colglazier is the fourth individual to hold the position.

Dr. Colglazier's most recent position was Executive Officer of the National Academy of Sciences and Chief Operating Officer of the National Research Council. He holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the California Institute of Technology and was formerly a Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee.
In a notice to staff, the State Department noted that the mission of the Office of the Science & Technology Adviser is "to serve the U.S. national interest by promoting global scientific and technological progress as integral components of U.S. diplomacy including building partnerships with the national and international scientific communities."

(Roll Call/CQ, AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)