Tuesday's midterms could mean more than just a routine reshuffling of the House and Senate majorities. The fates of a number of important science and technology policies also hang in the balance.
If things go the way the polls seem to indicate, the fight to keep an open Internet could become much harder next year. Incumbent congressman and front-runner to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), has already said there will be little incentive to support the current temporary compromise if Republicans capture the House on Tuesday. That's no surprise given that Upton himself has long history of Net neutrality opposition. He has called FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to reclassify broadband as a "blind power grab."
"Knowing we'll have a much stronger hand come January, there's no reason for us to compromise or save someone's bacon," Upton said in an interview with Politico.
Over the past five months, telecom and Internet companies have been scrambling to come up with a compromise for the controversial issue. The current draft would have granted the FCC temporary authority to regulate content on the Internet, but not on wireless networks. But even that neutered version never came close to a vote, as key Republicans refused to sign on to the draft legislation. Don't expect things to get better if Tea Party candidates also win seats, either. A coalition that included 35 groups sent a letter to the FCC last August urging it not to extend authority over broadband providers because doing so would be "an affront to free speech."
Surprise! NASA's having money problems. Republican gains in the midterm elections will likely make matters worse for the agency. After a review called it underfunded and overambitious, Obama opted to end to the Constellation program last February. In its place, the administration said it wanted to reallocate that money for new technologies and private spaceflight. The problem? Congress balked. In late September, it passed another act actually requesting funds for projects initiated under Constellation, but also granting less than half of the administration's request for private spaceflight. Now, with Congress in recess and still unable to get a revised budget, NASA is locked into its current funding level. In essence, that means the agency has to keep spending on programs that it's going to have to kill anyway, and can't start new ones. It's thought that if Democrats retain control of the Senate and House, they'll probably pass an appropriations bill to allocate additional money for NASA. And if the Republicans prevail? Well, negotiations will likely be deferred until January, when the party would take over the appropriations subcommittee.