Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

As part of its broader push on innovation legislation, the Senate is proposing to dramatically expand EPSCoR, a program that channels research funds to states that have historically received a small share of science agency funding. Counterpart House legislation does not recommend expanding the program, setting it up as an important point of negotiation.

The Senate has confirmed Eric Lander as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander is the 11th person to hold the job since Congress created it in 1976 and the first biologist.

The Endless Frontier Act is headed to the Senate floor next week despite an unresolved feud over the roles the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy should play in the flagship R&D initiative the legislation proposes.

Eric Lander, tapped in January to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is now one of President Biden's last Cabinet officials yet to be confirmed. At his nomination hearing last month, Lander addressed controversies that prompted concerns among senators and defended his commitment to equity.

Former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), President Biden’s nominee for NASA administrator, spent most of his career in Congress and led panels responsible for space policy over a total of 14 years.

Although the new year might bring partisan gridlock in Congress, a bipartisan push for a major R&D initiative could materialize. Meanwhile, more routine science policy matters will be affected by turnover in congressional committee leadership.

Congress passed bipartisan legislation last week that delineates federal agency responsibilities for monitoring and anticipating the consequences of solar storms.

Acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Neil Jacobs and other top agency officials are at odds over an independent investigation that concluded he violated the agency’s scientific integrity policy during the controversy that erupted last fall over Hurricane Dorian forecasts.

A Senate hearing this month explored ways to support “missions of national need” that underpin preparedness efforts for asteroid impacts, space weather, and orbital debris.

Legislative efforts are under way in the House and Senate to advance broad policy legislation for NASA, with potential implications for scientific activities. In the House, lawmakers are seeking to exert particularly strong control over the agency’s plans for the Moon and Mars.