Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
The presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is dominating the discussion about the upcoming US election, but it’s not the only contest to watch on 8 November. Choices that voters make will influence other levels of government — and some of these decisions will steer the course of science and science policy.
Winning the White House is only half the battle for the next president. The political balance of the two houses of Congress — the US House of Representatives and the Senate — can determine whether a president’s policies become law or die on the vine.
The Republican Party currently controls both houses. But on 8 November, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as are 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
Although the House seems likely to remain in Republican hands, a Democratic take-over of the Senate is possible. That would benefit Clinton — a Democrat — if she prevails over Trump: the latest polls suggest she has a narrow lead. A Democratic Senate would be more likely to back her funding and policy priorities, such as increasing science spending and fighting climate change, and to approve her nominees for government posts at NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other agencies key to science.
And if the Senate ends up split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the vice-president — who is also president of the Senate — would break the tie, handing control to the party that wins the White House.
Individual House and Senate races — and retirements — are set to change the political landscape for US science agencies in subtler ways.
Take Maryland, whose senior …