The budget reconciliation process was used for tax reform last month in both chambers. The House passed their tax reform plan (H.R. 1) along party lines, which included provisions to impose taxes on graduate student tuition waivers and to end deductions of amount paid on student loan interest. The Senate version, which passed without Democratic support in the early hours Saturday morning, includes language to generate $1.1 billion by opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling.
Four bills focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) passed out of committee in the House. The bills encourage STEM education in early childhood (H.R. 3397), promote veteran involvement (H.R. 4323), increase participation by minorities (H.R. 4375), and focus on aerospace internship and fellowship opportunities for women (H.R. 4254).
Scientific research is fundamental to understanding our ocean, securing our coastlines, and ensuring economic wellbeing. Two bills that would support research advancement and increase capacity were introduced in the House this month. One would reauthorize the National Sea Grant College Program (H.R. 4306) and require the distribution of Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship recipients (legislative fellows) to be equitable across chambers and political parties. The other bill (H.R. 4354) aims to identify unfunded proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation that have the potential to improve national health, welfare, and scientific advancement.
Two energy bills were introduced; one targets transparency of drilling applications by requesting an annual report from the secretary of interior on statistics (H.R. 4103) and the other aims to reform fossil fuel exploration while promoting alternative energy (H.R. 4426). Additionally, there was a hearing for an energy bill focused on hydrographic mapping (H.R. 221).
The House and Senate must merge their separate tax reform bills into one, a task for members from both chambers named to the conference committee. Conferees are expected to be named in the House as early as today.
The clock is ticking. The federal government is currently funded by a short-term continuation resolution (CR) set to expire on December 8. Congress must pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations or another CR to keep the lights on at federal agencies.
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