With the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats maintaining only a small majority in the Senate, the first session of the 112th Congress isn’t likely to be harmonious. Although both parties have indicated a willingness to work together, it is unclear whether they can set aside party differences and pass legislation in key areas such as energy and environmental protection.
Divisions are already emerging as House Republicans set as their top priorities the repeal of the health care reform law and a reduction of the federal discretionary budget. The new House leadership has also made it clear that they will focus on rigorous oversight of governmental programs as well as environmental regulations that they believe negatively impact jobs.
The Senate remains focused on facilitating the nation’s economic recovery, hastening its energy independence, improving its education system, and tackling the immigration situation.
Intertwined in both chambers’ agendas are key science and technology issues. For instance, committees in both the House and Senate will continue to work toward renewing chemical plant security regulations, reforming the patent system, and ensuring drug safety. Tight control of the federal budget—specifically a pledge from the GOP to cut budgets across the government back to 2008 levels—will also impact science and technology issues at all levels.
The following is C&EN’s annual outlook of what to expect from Congress in the coming months.