Our legislative prognostications

In the December edition of ASBMB Today, we discussed how scientific research would be affected by some of the pieces of legislation under consideration by the lame-duck Congress. We also made predictions on the outcomes of each of those pieces of legislation. How did we do?

Sequestration

Our prediction: We predicted a 70 percent chance Congress would achieve a compromise plan that replaced sequestration, a 20 percent chance Congress would postpone it and a 10 percent chance it would go into effect.

What happened: Sequestration was postponed to March 1 in a last-minute, fiscal-cliff deal.

The verdict: Looks like we whiffed on that one. President Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) were negotiating for quite a while, and it looked as though sequestration would be removed. However, negotiations broke down, and the only deal to pass the Congress was on taxes.

Immigration

Our prediction: We predicted a 40 percent chance that an immigration bill would pass that would make it easier for recently graduated STEM Ph.D.s to stay in the U.S.

What happened: The bill passed the House on Nov., 30, but was never taken up in the Senate, effectively killing the bill.

The verdict: Seems like we missed on this one, too. We gave it a 40 percent chance to pass both houses and be signed into law. The bill passed half of Congress but ultimately wasn’t debated in the other half.

Primate research

Our prediction: We predicted a 25 percent chance that legislation would be passed that restricted the use of primates in biomedical research.

What happened: The bill was introduced in both houses of Congress, but passed neither.

The verdict: We’re taking the victory on this one!

Travel

Our prediction: We predicted an 80 percent chance that legislation would be passed that would restrict federal employees, including scientists, to traveling to only one conference per year.

What happened: A version of the travel restrictions were introduced on both sides of Capitol Hill, but the bills never gained enough traction for serious debate.

The verdict: Another whiff on our end. The Senate was discussing a bill to aid the U.S. Post Office and the travel restriction language was an amendment to this bill. While the action on the U.S. Post Office had broad bipartisan support, the debate on the fiscal future of the nation drowned out most other legislation. This was one of the bills that fell by the wayside.

 

In all, we correctly predicted the fate of only one bill and missed on the other three. We expected an active lame-duck session of Congress, but they really focused on the fiscal cliff at the expense of almost everything else. Will our 25 percent accuracy prevent us from making predictions in the future? Of course not! Keep your eye on the Policy Blotter to keep up to date with what is going on in Washington that affects scientists, what ASBMB thinks about it and what you can do to get involved.

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