Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

House of Representatives Passes Legislation in an Attempt to End Partial Federal Government Shutdown -- This week, as one of the first orders of business of the new Congress, after electing Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House and swearing in all the Members of Congress, the House passed legislation to re-open the portions of the Federal Government currently in shutdown mode.  Agencies currently in shutdown mode include: the National Science Foundation, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS, the National Park Service, the Bureau of the Census, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, and others.  Those personnel designated as “essential” at those agencies remain on the job performing their duties, albeit currently without compensation.  Agencies not in shutdown mode because their appropriations have been enacted into law for the fiscal year include: the Department of Defense; the Department of Health and Human Services including the NIH; the Department of Education; the Department of Labor; the Department of Energy; and the Veterans Administration.

The legislation passed included six of the seven unfinished appropriations bills as an omnibus appropriations measure and then in a separate measure, the House passed a continuing resolution (H.J. Res 1) to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security until February 8. The six bills in the House package (H.R. 21) are primarily the Senate’s versions of the following bills: Commerce-Justice-Science; Interior-Environment; Transportation-Housing; Agriculture; Financial Services; and State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts. It passed 241-190.  A copy of the text of the omnibus can be found here.  Summaries of each of the six sections of the omnibus can be found here

House Adopts New Budget and Debt Limit Rules -- As the 116th Congress convened, the House adopted a new set of rules that included changes that could eliminate the need to vote to raise or suspend the debt limit if the House can pass a budget resolution. The debt currently stands at $22 trillion. Congress must address the debt limit later this year after a temporary suspension of borrowing authority expires March 1.  Some analysts estimate the Treasury can delay default until sometime in the summer through use of so-called extraordinary measures.

Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier Confirmed as Science Advisor – Just prior to the end of the 115th Congress, by unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be the next Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  For those interested, the August 2018 confirmation hearing for Dr. Droegemeier, along with his statement for the record, can be found here.  His answers to follow up questions for the record to the hearing can be found here.  The nomination of Barry Myers to be the NOAA Administrator was not acted upon by the Senate prior to its adjournment and was therefore returned to the President

House Creates New Select Committee on Climate – Along party lines, the House voted to create a select committee to address climate change without legislative or subpoena powers. The lawmakers voted 234-197 Thursday to pass a rules package that included creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to explore solutions to slow global warming and make recommendations to standing committees that have jurisdiction over the issue, including the House Science, Space, and Technology; Energy and Commerce; and Natural Resources committees.  The select committee is similar to a previous select committee that was established in 2007 and worked until 2010.  Speaker Pelosi has appointed Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) to chair the new select committee.