Election Ushers in Change to Education and Science Leadership on Capitol Hill
November 2014 

As has been widely reported, Election Night 2014 brought larger-than-expected Republican victories. Republicans regained the Senate, with at least 53 seats. (Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, faces a difficult December 6 runoff.)

In the House, the Republicans increased their majority to at least 244 seats, with Republican candidates leading in several undecided races. In total, there will be at least 69 new members of Congress: 11 in the Senate (1 Democrat and 10 Republicans) and 58 in the House (18 Democrats and 40 Republicans).

Education Committees

Before the election, it was anticipated that there would be dramatic changes in congressional leadership on education issues. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS), is retiring. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who had served as ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, will become chair. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will serve as ranking member.

On Senate Appropriations LHHS, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) is expected to become the subcommittee chair, and Sen. Murray the ranking member. The LHHS appropriations subcommittees in both the Senate and the House have jurisdiction over the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

On the House side, long-time education advocate Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member on the House Education and Workforce Committee, is also retiring. Current chair Rep. John Kline (R-MN) was able to obtain a waiver from House Republican Conference rules to serve past the six-year term limit for committee chairs. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is expected to be the ranking member.

With regard to House Appropriations LHHS, chair Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) lost his Senate race. Contenders to be the next chair include Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). It is assumed that Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will keep her position as ranking member.

Science Committees

There also will be new leadership for the committees with jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation (NSF). In the Senate, the current chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is retiring. The current ranking member, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), is expected to serve as the new chair.

On the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), which has jurisdiction over NSF funding, the current chair, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), is in line to become ranking member. There is speculation that the new chair could be either Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) or Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MI).

On the House side, it is expected that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will remain chair, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) ranking member, of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. However, a fair amount of turnover in committee membership is expected.

On the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, current chair Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a strong advocate for NSF, announced his retirement last December. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has expressed his interest in chairing the subcommittee, which is predicted to happen. It is anticipated that Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who spoke at the 2014 AERA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, will continue to serve as ranking member of the subcommittee.

Education Agenda for Lame Duck Session

The education agenda for the lame duck session is limited. Earlier this week, Congress passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which was signed today by President Obama. On November 17, the Senate HELP Committee voted out the bill reauthorizing the Institute of Education Sciences, placing it on the Senate’s legislative calendar.

Looking forward to the next session, education staff have indicated several key pieces of legislation that need to be reauthorized: Head Start, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Higher Education. In anticipation of these important education bills, AERA is assembling research to inform policy discussion and development through congressional briefings, fact sheets, and backgrounders.

Efforts to reauthorize the National Science Foundation stalled earlier this session with no hope of resolution during the lame duck session. Staff from the House Science Committee has informed the scientific community of their intention to revisit NSF reauthorization in the coming session, cautioning the community about possible significant cuts to the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.

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