Policy Insider: Dec. 8, 2022

Recap of the 117th Congress and preview of the 118th

Dec 8, 2022 - by Staff

Recap of the 117th Congress

The 117th Congress passed significant pieces of legislation to benefit scientific efforts, including the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022  and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 (H.R.5376). Additional bills, such as the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act (H.R.5118), passed the House but have not been taken up in the Senate.

CHIPS and Science Act:

The act authorizes $200 billion over 10 years for research and innovation, including substantial increases for programs to expand the National Science Foundation's work. Congress’s proposed appropriations levels for FY23, however, are considerably lower than the bill’s budget targets for NSF, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)..

On Nov. 21, 2022, Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed on to a letter led by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, urging Congress to fully fund the CHIPS and Science Act in FY23 appropriations legislation. The letter noted that the lack of funding in previously enacted versions of the COMPETES Act negatively impacted the agencies’ abilities to keep up with global competition. The letter advocated for the following priorities in the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill:

  • Department of Commerce Regional Technology Hubs and Recompete Pilot Program: The letter asks for $1.5 billion in FY23 for technology hubs to stimulate technology innovation and workforce development in up to 20 geographically distributed regions.

  • NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP): The letter asks for $1.5 billion in FY23 for research and related activities at the NSF’s new directorate.

  • NSF Research and Workforce Development: The letter asks for an FY23 investment of $1.95 billion in NSF’s education efforts, and to grow NSF’s FY23 research and related efforts (outside of TIP) to $7.55 billion.

  • NIST Manufacturing: The letter asks to fully fund NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership at $275 million and Manufacturing USA at $97 million.

Inflation Reduction Act:

Climate remains an important issue with an uncertain future in American politics. President Biden signed the $370 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 (H.R.5376) in August. It was the most significant legislation in U.S. history to address climate change, including provisions to reduce carbon pollution, advance environmental justice, and improve American energy security. 

However, Democratic climate wins like the IRA will soon face a Republican-controlled House, which means it will be difficult or impossible to adjust the bill.  Republicans have already articulated plans to eliminate the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Read more about the IRA in our September issue of Policy Insider. 

Wildfire legislation:

In July 2022, the House passed a package of 49 bills, called the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act (H.R.5118), with the goal of aiding wildfire and drought emergencies in the West. The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate, where it is largely opposed by Republicans due to budget concerns. This legislation is unlikely to get across the finish line in the remaining weeks before the 117th Congress leaves office, but has a strong chance of being revived after the 118th Congress is sworn in.

In November 2022, Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Forests, joined Sen. Michael Bennet and several members of the Colorado congressional delegation in a letter to the U.S. Forest Service asking for information about the agency’s plan to implement the $10 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to address a backlog of forest management needs. Specific questions asked in the letter relate to the timing and use of the funds to support the wildland firefighting workforce.

Lame Duck Session

The House and Senate have returned to Washington for a lame duck session, during which the top priority is to keep the government running after Dec. 16. It looks like December will be long and will likely require another short-term continuing resolution extension to at least Dec. 23. Issues that are at the forefront, in addition to the spending package, include same-sex marriage, changes to the Electoral Count Act, and raising the debt ceiling.

Preview of the 118th Congress

Republican House Leadership:

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) won the House Republican nomination for speaker of the House with 188 votes, but he does not currently have enough votes to win the floor election in January, according to Roll Call. It has been suggested that Democrats could pick the Speaker if McCarthy does not get enough votes, although such an outcome would be highly unusual.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was elected majority leader, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) was elected majority whip, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) was elected Republican conference chair, and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) was elected National Republican Congressional Committee chair.

Democratic House Leadership:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will step back from a leadership role this Congress, as did Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) will be assistant Democratic leader. The leadership vote was held on Nov. 30 and yielded the following results:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-N.Y.-8): Democratic leader
  • Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.-5): Democratic whip
  • Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-31): Caucus chair
  • Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.-2): Democratic Policy and Communication Committee (DPCC) chair

Potential Senate Committee Leadership:

  • Commerce, Science & Transportation
    • Projected Chair: Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

  • Appropriations
    • Projected Chair: Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Susan Collins (R-Maine)

  • Energy & Natural Resources
    • Projected Chair: Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

  • Environment & Public Works
    • Projected Chair: Tom Carper (D-Del.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Republican Senate Leadership:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will remain as Republican leader. Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Conference Chair John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) will also remain in their positions.

Democrat Senate Leadership:

Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will remain in their positions. The caucus leader position will likely be eliminated, as Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is expected to be nominated president pro tempore and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate Democratic caucus leadership elections  took place yesterday and the leadership team has been rounded out by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for chair of the Steering Committee. 

Potential House Committee Leadership:

  • Science, Space, & Technology
    • Projected Chair: Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) 

  • Natural Resources
    • Projected Chair: Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

  • Appropriations
    • Projected Chair: Kay Granger (R-Texas)
    • Projected Ranking Member: Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

Projected Legislation in the 118th Congress

In the 118th Congress we may see a few pieces of legislation relevant to UCAR’s interests. The first is the reauthorization of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas, who is the projected chair of the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee. The second is the NOAA Organic Act, which could potentially result in NOAA becoming an independent agency. We are also looking out for appropriations to fund the CHIPS and Science Act in addition to the wildfire package described above.

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