Federal Relations

June 24, 2011

The Week in Review

Calendar:  The House is preparing to begin its Fourth of July holiday recess today and is slated to return July 5, while the Senate remains in session throughout next week before their scheduled recess during the week of July 4th.

Deficit Negotiations Stalled:  Attempts by Congress and the White House to broker a budget deal that would allow for raising the debt ceiling stalled Thursday as two key Republican negotiators walked away from the table, blaming the impasse on Democratic demands for tax increases.  Debt reduction talks now move up to the highest levels, between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner, as had been expected to occur eventually. In a press conference yesterday morning, Boehner said that to reach an agreement by the end of this month “the president is going to have to engage,” while also adding that “tax hikes are off the table.” Boehner also reiterated that House Republicans would not agree to raise the debt limit “without serious spending cuts and reforms to the way we spend the American people’s money.”

House Science Committee Examines NOAA’s Climate Service:  On Thursday this week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review the Administration’s FY12 budget request proposal to reorganize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a Climate Service. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco was taken to task by the committee chair for her agency’s slow response to committee member’s questions over the past several months.  Read more at the House Science Committee web page.

Defense Appropriations Moves Forward:  On Thursday, the House began work on its FY12 Defense appropriations bill.  Numerous objections were raised by the White House regarding funding levels for various activities, citing insufficient funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for high-priority science and technology programs, acquisitions of certain satellites and classified programs, and for the Air Force’s Rockey Systems Launch Program. Additionally, the White House objects to language in the bill that would limit the use of funds to transfer detainees held at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Floor debate on this bill will resume when the House returns from recess.

Patent Overhaul Approved in House:  The House passed a broad overhaul of the US patent system Thursday, after overcoming opposition to changes in provisions related to patent office fees. But the changes will make it harder for the House and Senate to agree on a final compromise on the legislation. The bill would reform how the US Patent and Trademark Office is funded and how it regulates inventions. Despite the ultimate 304-117 victory in the House, the bill has a dim future in the Senate where a handful of Senators have already expressed their opposition to the bill.

FY11 Funding for University Link:  The Federal Transit Administration has announced its FY11 New Starts and Small Starts funding.  The agency is doling out money to eight existing full funding grant agreements, four full funding grant agreement projects listed as pending, six projects recommended for future full funding grant agreements, and nine Small Starts recommended for funding.  Sound Transit’s University Link LRT Extension will receive $110,000,000 as expected.