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The election is over and the makeup of Congress has been decided for the next few years. President Obama won re-election by winning the popular vote and the electoral vote by a clear margin. The Democratic majority was increased in the Senate by two seats in a year when they were expected to lose four seats. The Democrats earned an overall larger number of votes than Republicans for House seats but due to district lines Republicans maintain control of the House. Exit polling during the election indicated that 70 percent of the public support a tax increase for wealthier Americans and also expect Congress and the President to cooperate on dealing with the deficit.
While the macrostate of a Democratic controlled Senate and White House, and a Republican controlled House has not changed, it appears as though the microstate has. The election clearly expressed to politicians that the public is unhappy with the current state of affairs in Washington D.C. and expects leadership to work together rather than allow for continued ideological divide.
Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have both stated willingness to compromise on important issues regarding the "fiscal cliff"; issues such as tax reform, entitlement reform, and the looming sequestration. Messaging from Democratic leadership, however, has been one of flexing political capital gained in the election, stating that certain compromises on tax and entitlement reform are off the table, though with the expectation that a grand bargain will be struck. Whether such a compromise will be achieved in the remaining days of the lame duck session is not yet clear.
There is, at this point, cautious optimism for both significant legislation to be passed during the lame duck session and also for increased cooperation in the 113th Congress.
ISSUE: Media Update
Michael Lubell, director of public affairs at APS and professor of physics at the City College of the City University of New York, appeared on NPR's Science Friday on November 9. Lubell discussed what is at stake for science and the nation if we go off the "fiscal cliff" next year–an eight percent drop in federal funding affecting critical research projects. The conversation then turned to issues that included whether climate change will be addressed by the next Congress; the future direction of NASA; and the dire need for qualified physics teachers to educate future scientific leaders. You can tune in to the audio recording of the interview at sciencefriday.com.
On November 12, Lubell was quoted in a New York Times article about the future of science under President Obama's second term in office. Lubell said it would be catastrophic if the nation goes off the "fiscal cliff" because fewer scientific grant proposals would be funded, among other issues. He also stated that the president might address climate change.
Roll Call, one of three main newspapers on Capitol Hill, published Lubell's regular guest column on November 20 concerning federal travel regulations that make "it very difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, for scientists to attend major conferences."
A study of the technical issues surrounding the extension of nuclear reactor licenses from 60 to 80 years is under way. The Study Committee has been selected, and a meeting will be held in Washington, D.C. in early 2013.
A study for the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) regarding trends in nuclear and radiological detection, is near completion and will be released in early 2013. APS and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are joint sponsors of the study.
Plans are under way to hold a tactical nuclear weapons workshop, sponsored by the State Department and in conjuction with the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), in early 2013.
POPA approved a template for all future study proposals at its February 2012 meeting. The template is posted with the POPA Suggestion Box for future POPA studies.
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