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Congressional Committees Organize, Begin Hearings

Several committee and subcommittee rosters have been announced in the recent weeks, including for committees overseeing federal funding and policy issues important to social and behavioral science research. Notable committee rosters include House and Senate Appropriations; House Science, Space, and Technology Democrats and Republicans; and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for health policy, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have also announced their committee membership.

New committee leadership of note for social and behavioral science research funding include new House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jose Serrano (D-NY) and new Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

After officially organizing (which includes welcoming new members and approving the committee rules), committees began holding hearings and announcing their priorities for the coming year. While Senate committees have been primarily focused on vetting presidential nominees, House committees have been releasing oversight and authorization reports, which include their priorities for the 115th Congress. The Science, Space, and Technology oversight report can be found here, and the Energy and Commerce oversight report can be found here. The Science Committee oversight report in particular outlines the committee’s plans for oversight of the National Science Foundation, noting that the committee will seek to “increase support for basic research in the physical sciences,” adding that “these are the areas with the greatest potential for breakthroughs to new industries and U.S. jobs.” Social science is likely to continue to face challenges in the Science Committee this year, despite the efforts of strong champions in the minority. A webcast of the Science Committee’s first hearing of the year is available here.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

A Profile of the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress was officially sworn in on January 3. The new Congress includes a freshman class of 53 Representatives (26 Republicans and 27 Democrats) and 6 Senators (1 Republican and 5 Democrats). Republicans maintained majorities in both chambers following the November elections, but with smaller margins than in the 114th Congress. The party alignment in the House currently stands at 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats, compared to the Republican majority of 249 in the 114th Congress. The party alignment in the Senate stands at 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats (the two Senate Independents caucus with the Democrats), compared to the Republican majority of 54 seats in the 114th Congress.

While both chambers of Congress are still overwhelmingly white (339 in the House and 90 in the Senate) and male (348 in the House and 79 in the Senate), the 115th Congress will be the most diverse in history. It will also be one of the most educated Congresses in history with 234 members of the House and 57 members of the Senate holding advanced degrees. A large majority in both chambers have held different public offices before their election to Congress (191 in the House, 44 in the Senate), were involved in business (178 in the House, 29 in the Senate), or practiced law (156 in the House, 50 in the Senate). Notably, there are 5 members of the House who self-identified as having occupations in science as well as 77 members of the House and 20 members of the Senate who self-identified as having occupations in education before their election to Congress.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 10), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House and Senate Committees Take Shape

Several committee chairs and ranking members have been announced in recent weeks, including for committees and subcommittees overseeing funding and policy issues important to social and behavioral science research. These appointments will have important impacts on the priorities and activities of the committees over the next year. A few notable appointments known so far:

House Appropriations Committee
Chairman: Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) (press release)
Ranking Member: Nita Lowey (D-NY), reappointed

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science
Chairman: John Culberson (R-TX), reappointed
Ranking Member: TBD

Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
Chairman: Tom Cole (R-OK), reappointed
Ranking Member: Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), reappointed

Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman: Thad Cochran (R-MS), reappointed
Ranking Member: Pat Leahy (D-VT) (minority press release)

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science
Chairman: Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Ranking Member: TBD

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science
Chairman: Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Ranking Member: Patty Murray (D-WA)

House Science, Space and Technology Committee
Chairman: Lamar Smith (R-TX), reappointed
Ranking Member: Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), reappointed

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Chairman: John Thune (R-SD), reappointed
Ranking Member: Bill Nelson (D-FL), reappointed

Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
Chairman: Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Ranking Member: Gary Peters (D-MI)

House Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman: Greg Walden (R-OR), (press release)
Ranking Member: Frank Pallone (D-NJ), reappointed

Subcommittee on Health
Chairman: TBD
Ranking Member: Gene Green (D-TX)

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 10), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session, Begins Organizing

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since last week’s historic elections. Lawmakers are returning to a new reality that many did not see coming, with the election of Donald Trump as the next President and the Republicans maintaining a stronghold in both chambers of Congress.

Following the elections, Republicans maintain a narrowed majority in the House and Senate. The Senate margins sit at 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats, with a run-off race in Louisiana scheduled for December. In addition, and as expected, Republicans held onto control of the House, with 239 Republicans to 193 Democrats, though Democrats narrowed the margin by picking up 5 seats so far, with some still too close to call. Notable losses include Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth; Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and House appropriators Mike Honda (D-CA) and David Jolly (R-FL).

Three newly elected members of the House will be sworn in this week, rather than in January with the rest of their freshman class, because their seats have previously been vacated. This includes Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), who will fill the late Mark Takai’s seat, James Comer (R-KY), who will fill fellow Republican Ed Whitfield’s seat following his resignation in September, and Dwight Evans (D-PA), who will fill Chaka Fattah’s (D-PA) seat following his June resignation.

It will be some time before committee assignments for the 115th Congress will be made. Below is an early look at the committees of interest to the COSSA community and number of seats currently vacated following the elections.

senate-departing-members-2016house-departing-members-2016

At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is what to do about the FY 2017 spending bills, which remain undone. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 9. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are split on the endgame strategy. Some Republicans are pushing to complete the appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year, thereby allowing the next Congress to start fresh, while others would like to punt them to 2017 so as to dodge any final negotiations with President Obama. Either way, Congress must take some form of action by December 9 to avoid a government shutdown.

Another task for the lame duck session is getting organized for next year. House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are holding leadership elections this week. While we expect Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to keep the Speaker’s gavel and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to remain as Minority Leader in the House, and Mitch McConnell to stay on as Majority Leader in the Senate, there could be some surprises as lawmakers battle for other positions.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2016 elections for the latest developments and analysis of what this all means for the social science research community.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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