APS News

The Washington Dispatch

Updates from the APS Office of Public Affairs


Republicans Take the Senate and Eye Continuing Resolution
With midterm elections over and the Republicans now in charge of both chambers of Congress, the question on everyone’s mind is “What next?” News media have already highlighted the big stories: repealing the Affordable Care Act, authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, immigration reform, job creation, committee chairs, climate change, net neutrality, and of course, who will run for President in 2016. Very little coverage has been devoted to government funding expiring on Dec. 11, 2014.

The latest talk about Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations is that the lame duck session will produce a combination of a few appropriations bills combined into one bill (an “omnibus” bill, or in this case a “mini-bus”) and a partial continuing resolution (CR), termed a CRomnibus. The expectation is that funding for the science agencies and the Department of Energy will be done under the CR portion of the CRomnibus bill and funding for Department of Defense will be incorporated into the mini-bus. However, absent further legislation, all funding will be subject to sequestration: across-the-board reductions of 9.7 percent for defense and 7.2 percent for non-defense.

Staff on the Hill are optimistic that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, most recently authorized as No Child Left Behind) will be reauthorized next year given the expectation that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is likely to chair the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. There is bipartisan support to reform Title II (teacher professional development) funding in ESEA and to focus on science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) education.

The House Science Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), is likely to be as divided and unproductive in the 114th Congress as it was in the 113th. Rep. Smith continues to insist that the National Science Foundation (NSF) send confidential information on grants to the Hill. NSF has agreed to open up that information to staffers who visit NSF. Ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) wrote a letter to Chairman Smith opposed to the release of confidential grant information. The letter also points out that confidential material in those grants already reviewed by Hill staff has been leaked to media outlets such as Fox News and The Daily Caller. It is unlikely that America COMPETES will be reauthorized in light of continued policy disagreements.


In a September 26 op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, scientist Matthew Bobrowsky wrote about the crucial role science plays in strengthening the U.S. economy.

Similarly, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif. 18th) opined about securing America’s scientific future through investment in research in the October edition of the APS newsletter Capitol Hill Quarterly.

The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) forwarded a draft Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate to the APS Council for comment. The draft was first reviewed by the APS Physics Policy Committee (PPC). After Council comments on the draft statement, it will be reviewed by the APS Executive Board before being presented to APS membership for further commentary. Information about the process can be found on the Climate Change Statement Review webpage.

The POPA Physics & the Public Subcommittee will direct a survey that explores pathways that overcome obstacles to recruiting university physical-science students into careers as high school science teachers. This study was approved at the Panel’s October 2014 meeting and will be undertaken in conjunction with the APS Committee on Education.

Two proposed APS Statements will be reviewed at the next APS Board meeting; the first is a revision of the current APS Statement on Civic Engagement of Scientists (APS Statement 08.1), and the second is a new statement on the Status of Women in Physics.

A review of APS Statement 09.1, Control of the U.S. Nuclear Complex, continues; a larger discussion on possible revisions to the statement will be held at the first POPA meeting of 2015.

The POPA Energy & Environment Subcommittee is developing activities that address the issues surrounding helium supply and pricing.

With the resignation of the 2014 POPA Chair Elect, a special election will soon be held to fill the currently vacant position.

A template for study proposals can be found online, along with a suggestion box for future POPA studies, at www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/suggestions/index.cfm.

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Editor: David Voss
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