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AWIS in Action! March 2013 - Congress CR
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   March 2013
In This Issue
Congress Avoids Shutdown, Passes Continuing Resolution
This week Congress came together collectively to pass another continuing resolution budget bill to avoid the government shutdown. The bill went from the House to the Senate where, of more than 100 proposed amendments to the bill, only a few were seriously considered. It ultimately passed in the Senate with reasonable bi-partisan support before being sent back to the House, approved there, and then sent on to President Obama for approval. The current bill is not a complete budget and only continues funding until September 2013. The budget bill does not, however, address the Sequester. Due to the failure of members of Congress to reach an agreement on deficit reduction by the beginning of March, the implementation of sequestration, with its painful across the board cuts for non-defense and defense discretionary spending, has begun. Agencies began releasing their plans for unpaid time off for their employees, reduced funding for grants and programs, and cutting access for participants in certain programs.

The debate continues between choosing obvious, painful ways to implement the cuts, and less obvious, but equally damaging outcomes. For example, the Grand Canyon National Park will be cutting its access by two hours a day and the bathrooms will be cleaned less frequently, while other national parks and museums will have to cancel summer camps, shorten hours, reduce summer hires, and find other ways to accommodate. More painfully, the Head Start programs in Columbus and Franklin, Indiana, are losing two classrooms today. They struggled with how to equitably select which children in poverty to evict from the program and ultimately opted for a lottery system. It isn’t just kids and families that are being pinched by this. Food safety and drug approval pipelines may be slowed with less staff to monitor and test products, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. The National Institutes of Health, in anticipation of Congress’s failure to resolve this, has already been reducing payments on grants. NASA was called in to testify this week about how national security may be endangered by failing to enable us to detect threats from space and thus why funding cuts will further cripple their ability to protect us.

What remains clear is that, while science usually enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, some members have started suggesting they should have more oversight over which programs to cut and keep. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) entered an amendment to the budget bill above to eliminate $10 million of National Science Foundation (NSF) funds allocated for political science research and transfer $7 million to the National Cancer Institute. Other similar attacks are being made to cut climate change research from NASA or all social science research funded by the NSF. While the nuanced value of some projects may not always be clear at a glance (please recall Sarah Palin’s condescending comments about scientists using fruit flies to investigate autism or Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) recent claims that the is NSF giving people money to play World of Warcraft, enabling members of Congress, less than 10% of whom hold any kind of STEM or medical degree, to cherry-pick the research they perceive as being valuable is a slippery slope.
In This Issue
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