Congressional Chaos?

WASHINGTON — Though the dust of the midterm Congressional elections has mostly settled on Capitol Hill since last week, new and returning members of Congress have been no clearer on their priorities for higher education policy than they were before voters cast their ballots.

But while members are still largely mum about their policy positions heading into the 112th Congress, three Hill education staffers were willing to prognosticate, albeit guardedly, during a panel discussion Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute. Also on hand were three AEI researchers and an education lobbyist, who were a little looser in what they shared with the assembled crowd.

The next Congress will bring with it “incredible turnover, probably the greatest turnover we’ve seen in a long time,” of members of Congress who were seen as champions of education and research, said Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research and visiting scholar at AEI. The deaths in the last 14 months of Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), as well as the retirements of Senators Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), and of Representative David Obey (D-Wisc.), among others, have left a sizable void on education in the House and Senate that has yet to be filled.

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