November 14, 2016 (Election Special Edition)

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How Will A New Administration Affect Science

This is a developing story and some statements in this article will change.

With the elections behind us, many in the academic and scientific sphere are bracing for the next administration’s policy platforms and subsequent implementation. Congress and the Executive Branch now share the same political party and federal funding for scientific research and federal policy in addressing climate change is in question.

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax,” pledged to rescind Clean Power Plan rules, and promised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Rather than continue ambitious climate-focused initiatives, the Trump team has emphasized clean water, food supplies and disease eradication. These positions are consistent with his answers to’s 20 questions on science-driven issues.

In the past several years, Congress attached many poison-pill-climate-research riders into appropriations bills. Most of the riders were stripped from the final appropriations bills due to veto threats from President Obama. Everything changed with the 2016 election results. Congress is in session this week , and there are discussions of passing another continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past Dec. 9 when the current CR expires. Congress may decide to punt passage of the FY 2017 federal budget into the new year when a new Congress and administration can rewrite the appropriations bills to favor their policy positions. On the other hand, speculation is that Congress will pass the FY 2017 federal budget by Dec. 9 to avoid saddling the new administration with responsibility for the FY 2017 federal budget within its first one-hundred days. On Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will become his chief of staff. Priebus is a Washington political insider who knows how Washington works and is seen as able to work with congressional leadership.

President-elect Trump is racing to form a government ready to take the reins on January 20, 2017. The transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be led by Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a prominent climate change denier, proud to be listed as a “climate criminal” by Greenpeace. Ebell is also seen as a leading contender to become EPA administrator. Other possibilities include Joe Aiello of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Caro Comer of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and attorneys general who filed suit against the Clean Power Plan, including Arkansas’ Leslie Rutledge, Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt and West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey.

Mike McKenna leads the transition team at the Department of Energy (DOE). He is an energy industry lobbyist whose 2016 clients include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, electric utility Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co., and Competitive Power Ventures Inc. Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resource is a leading fracking proponent and seen as the top candidate for Energy secretary. Hamm is a long-time friend of Trump and his influence is reflected in the President-elect’s broad embrace of fracking.

The transition team at the Department of Interior (DOI) is being led by David Bernhardt, who served as the Interior Department’s solicitor during the George W. Bush Administration. Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil, is seen as the top contender for Interior secretary. Other names in play for the DOI top spots include many current and former members of Congress.

The transition team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is being led by former Representative Bob Walker (R-PA) and Mark Albrecht. In twenty years representing Pennsylvania, Walker chaired the House Science Committee and the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. Albrecht is currently chairman of the board of U.S. Space LLC and was a principal space advisor to President George H.W. Bush. Both are seen as pro-space and have been mentioned as possible NASA administrators. NASA could see some increased attention, especially favoring the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, likely at the expense of the Earth Science Division.

Harold Hamm, in addition to being a leading contender at DOE is seen as a possibility to lead Interior. Although in a Nov. 9 email to Continental Resources employees, he stated that he is staying in Oklahoma.

Robert Grady is a name being bandied about for a variety of positions, including DOE, EPA, and DOI. A venture capitalist and partner at Gryphon Investors, Grady is a close advisor to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and has worked in Congress, in former New Jersey Governor Kean’s administration and in President George H.W. Bush’s White House.

White House positions are also up for grabs. Mike Catanzaro, a former Hill staffer now and energy lobbyist, is seen as the leading contender for “energy czar.” The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is expected to go to Marty Hall, vice president at FirstEnergy and former CEQ chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration.

The prominence of industry leaders, venture capitalists and science-skeptics as prospective cabinet-level appointments is raising concern among many.

All of the information above is subject to change as President-elect Donald Trump’s transition unfolds. Late Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence replaced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as leader of the transition team. Christie had been rumored as a prospect for Attorney General or Director of Homeland Security. Speculation is that the recent conviction of two Christie aides in the “Bridgegate” controversy played a role in his repalcement. That scandal is thought to complicate any possible confirmation hearing.

House of Representatives

This is a developing story, and some statements in this article will change.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) gained a strong measure of support when Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was named chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump. Preibus is a long-time insider of the national Republican Party. He and Ryan have a long-standing friendship dating back to 1997, when Ryan was preparing for his first run for Congress. Ryan credits Preibus with persuading him to run for Speaker after the resignation of John Boehner (R-OH).

Ryan had been facing a potentially difficult road to a new term as House Speaker with challenges from the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The Trump victory and appointment of Preibus has blunted that threat. Ryan is now expected to win reelection as Speaker for the 115th Congress, beginning January 3, in a vote of House Republicans Tuesday, November 15.

Mark Meadows (R-NC), a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, noted: “To focus on leadership-as long as that leadership is extremely supportive of the Trump administration-would be a misplaced effort.” He added, however, “If there is any impediment to accomplishing what President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence want to accomplish in the first 100 days, there will be a number of us in the HFC [House Freedom Caucus] and outside the HFC who are willing to say: Wait a minute.”

House Committee Chairs are likely to remain stable, except where term-limited by House Republican Conference Rules to no more than three consecutive terms. Notable Committee chair changes of interest to the ecological community are Energy and Commerce and Appropriations.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) is term-limited and has not sought a waiver to continue. Leading contenders to replace Upton include Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Greg Walden (R-OR), with Barton expected to prevail.

Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) is also term-limited and has not sought a waiver. The likely successor to Rogers is Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who is currently chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Interestingly, Rogers has expressed interest in the Defense Subcommittee chair that would be vacated by Frelinghuysen and is favored to assume that position.

Another position of interest is chair of the Committee on Rules, which determines procedures for considering individual bills by the full House. This is an important position that has been pivotal in recent legislative battles.

Under Republican Conference rules, the Speaker chooses the Rules chair, currently Pete Session (R-TX). Appointed by former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sessions has been a loyal ally of Speaker Ryan. The new Congress gives Ryan his first opportunity to make his own appointment here, but so far Ryan has shown little interest in replacing Sessions.

The Ryan/Preibus nexus signals the intent of the Trump administration to work with established Republican leadership. It is worth noting, however, that Trump named campaign CEO Steve Bannon as his “Chief Strategist” and senior counselor in the White House. Bannon as executive chairman of Brietbart News has long condemned Ryan’s leadership and has repeatedly called for his ouster, seeking to “destroy” Ryan. In the White House release naming Bannon and Priebus’ new positions, Bannon was the first listed, causing some to speculate on levels of influence.

Lingering tensions between Speaker Ryan, the House Freedom Caucus and chief strategist Bannon mark a challenging beginning to the Speaker’s likely new term, if he is reelected.

U.S. Senate

This is a developing story, and some statements in this article will change.

Senate Republican leadership votes have not yet been scheduled, but are expected as soon as this week. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is widely expected to remain Senate Majority Leader, after helping manage a largely successful defense of the Senate Republican majority. McConnell’s continuing tenure appears to be more stable than House Speaker Ryan’s.

Republican Senate committee chairs, as in the House, are limited to three terms by Senate Republican Conference rules. Most of the chair positions are expected to remain unchanged. Committees of interest with term-limited chairs include Appropriations, and Environment and Public Works.

Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) is term-limited and has not sought a waiver. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the likely successor although Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is also mentioned as a possibility.

Environment and Public Works Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) is also term-limited and has not sought a waiver. John Barrasso, (R-WY) is the anticipated successor, but Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) is mentioned as a possibility.

The biggest challenge for Senate Republican leadership is attracting enough Democratic support to overcome possible filibusters, which are allowed in the Senate but not the House. Current Senate rules require 60 votes to end a filibuster, although this rule may change. The Republican Senate majority narrowed from 54 to 44 in the 114th Congress to only 51 to 48 in the upcoming 115th. (Note that Louisiana’s Senate race is unresolved with a runoff scheduled for December 10 between John Kennedy (R) and Foster Campbell (D). Kennedy is favored to win.)

ESA Statement on the 2016 Elections

“Although the US election promises great changes, the laws of nature will remain unchanged. These include the dependence of human welfare on clean water, clean air, well managed fish populations, abundant bees to pollinate our crops, and healthy ecosystems that provide the many other services that allow people to live happy and productive lives. The Ecological Society of America will remain a source of discovery, knowledge and analysis to understand and manage biodiversity and ecosystems. As the largest society of professional ecologists in the world, ESA manifests the importance of innovative scientific research, and stands ready to share our knowledge with a new US president and Congress. This has been the case since its founding in 1915, and will be ever more important in a world which demands more and more from nature.”

— Ecological Society of America President David M. Lodge.

Read ESA’s Diversity Statement.