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There was predictable chuckling the other day, when an April Fools’ news release headlined “Robots Invade Capitol” turned out to be a cleverly true come-on: Jeanne Shaheen, the freshman Democratic senator from New Hampshire, was seeking attention of arobotics demonstration to promote her legislation boosting federal aid for technology education.

But the government’s role in incubating the innovations of tomorrow isn’t much of a laughing matter, at least not to President Obama. He’s made more government support for innovation — in defense, health, energy, education, technology and transportation — the center of his “winning the future” budget priorities for this year.

And he’s running into sustained resistance from the newly empowered Republican fiscal hawks, many of whom see tax breaks to promote corporate innovation as far preferable to grants to businesses or appropriations for federal efforts.

The result is likely to be a standoff this year over the government’s role in ideas investment. And it’s the debate we’re exploring in this second CQ Roll Call Outlook, a new publication scheduled to appear six times this year.

Each issue will consider a single, broad policy or political question illuminated by the hottest topics of the day, including the budget and taxes, defense, energy and the environment and health care. (We haven’t set the topic for the next Outlook, in June. But that’s when the next big budget battle will be coming to a head — because by then the Treasury will be almost out of options for delaying an increase in the federal debt limit.)

This special publication is going to be a reporting, editing and production effort shared by the staffs of both Roll Call and CQ — something that will be made immeasurably easier in just a few days, once all our company’s journalists have moved into the same bright and (for the time? being) spotless newsroom. It’s the heart — or at least the “factory floor” — of our new corporate headquarters a few blocks from the Capitol, at 77 K Street Northeast.

David Hawkings is also editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, which analyzes the top stories developing in Congress and across Washington. For free delivery by email, before lunchtime, register at

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