ESA Policy News: July 22

Here are some highlights from the latest Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. NATIONAL DEBT-CEILING DEBATE: CONSENSUS IN SIGHT, SPECIFIC PLAN REMAINS ELUSIVE House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Obama are unanimous in agreeing the federal deficit has to be raised before the projected August 2 deadline to avoid U.S. default on its debt. When, how and under what conditions this will occur remains murky. Most recently, the House Republicans passed H.R. 2560, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. The measure would cut spending in Fiscal Year 2012 by $111 billion, cap future spending at 19.9 percent of gross domestic product and allow for the debt ceiling to be increased if a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is approved by Congress and sent to the states.  On July 22, the measure failed to advance in the Senate with a majority of Senators agreeing to table the bill by a vote of 51-46. On July 19, a reunited “Gang of Six,” which originally consisted of a bipartisan group of six  Senators, unveiled a plan to lower the national debt by $3.7 trillion over ten years through a combination of spending reductions as well as entitlement and revenue reforms. The plan is based on the framework of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Senate Democratic leaders have signaled the proposal is unlikely to be implemented by Aug. 2 for a number of reasons: 1) the Congressional Budget Office likely cannot score the bill (to determine its estimated fiscal price tag) by the deadline and 2) any legislation increasing revenue, under the U.S. Constitution, must begin in the House of Representatives. The plan has already been met with opposition by interest groups across the political spectrum wary of its tax increases and entitlement cut proposals. Another 614-page plan, put forward by Sen. Coburn (R-OK), would trim the deficit by $9 trillion over the next ten years. The plan includes reforms to revenue, entitlements and large cuts ($974.1 billion over 10 years) to discretionary spending. This would include $346.4 billion in cuts to the Department of Agriculture, $409 billion from the Department of Education, $33.67 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency, $26.44 billion from the Department of Interior, $101.8 billion from the Department of Energy and $14.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Much like another recent Coburn report accusing NSF of wasteful spending, the new report proposes to eliminate the agency’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Directorate. The fact that the plan also includes $1 trillion in tax increases and $1 trillion in...

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