DC Digest – November 25, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • NAE Launches Engineering for You Video Contest
  • House Judiciary Approves Patent Litigation Bill
  • DATA Act Makes Progress in Congress


  • Week of the Fallout: Legislators in both chambers headed home for Thanksgiving recess last week without making progress on the budget conference, farm bill, or defense authorization. The House will return on Dec. 2 and the Senate on Dec. 9; but in the interim, speculation on what — if anything — can be completed by years’ end continues. Also in conversation: the impacts of Sen. Harry Reid’s move to end the filibuster for most executive and judicial nominees and the deal to freeze the Iranian nuclear program.
  • White House: While in California, President Obama will host events on the economy and immigration.
  • Economic Markers:  Reports due out this week include markers on consumer confidence and the health of the housing market.

Read More:
Top Dems, Republicans blast Obama’s nuke deal with Iran (The Hill)
6 Questions to Ponder About the Senate’s Nuclear Winter (Roll Call)
The Next 3 Days are Stuffed with Juicy Economic Data — Here’s Your Complete Preview (Business Insider)

In celebration of its upcoming 50th anniversary, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has launched Engineering for You (E4U), a video contest to highlight the impact that engineering has had or will have on society.   Participants are asked to produce a one-to-two-minute video showing how engineering improves our quality of life and serves the needs of society.  The video must highlight a period during the years 1964-2064.

The competition is open to individuals and teams, with a grand prize of $25,000.  The contest runs from Nov. 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

Read More:
E4U (nae.edu)
The House Judiciary Committee on November 20 marked up the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), a measure which aims to address abusive patent litigation. The bill is expected to go to the House floor the first week in December.

The most substantive amendment adopted, offered by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), improved the fee-shifting provision in the bill.  Although the Judiciary Committee’s improvement is welcome, the fee-shifting provision remains problematic, and the elements of the bill that create concerns for higher ed (see Nov 8 letter below) remain in the legislation.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on November 18 introduced the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1720).  The Senate bill is less expansive than H.R. 3309 and omits several provisions of concern for universities.

Read More:
November 8 Statement on the Innovation Act (aau.edu)
House Judiciary Approves Patent Reform Bill (judiciary.house.gov)
Senate Introduces Bill to Protect from Patent Trolls (Leahy.senate.gov)

The House of Representatives on November 18 approved its version of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, legislation aimed at providing the public with “consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data” on contracts, loans, and grants.

In the Senate, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on November 6 approved a slightly different version of the DATA Act.  The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration, but it is unclear when.

Both versions of the legislation provide greater financial transparency for federal grant and contract award funds; require the Treasury Department to establish government-wide data standards; and require the Office of Management and Budget to consult with stakeholders, such as institutions of higher education, in identifying ways to streamline reporting requirements.

One provision of concern is a pay-for provision in the House version that would reduce federal agency travel expenditures.  Such a provision could impair scientific communications and collaborations with federal science officials.

Read More:
House Passes Spending Transparency Bill (oversight.house.gov)
Senate Committee Passes DATA Act (warner.senate.gov)