House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill Along with Problematic NSF Amendment

After two weeks of debate and votes on hundreds of amendments, the House of Representatives has passed an omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, consisting of all twelve spending bills. The omnibus includes the same funding levels for social science research as the Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bills that were passed by the House Appropriations Committee. While the proposed funding levels were moderately good for social and behavioral science research, the House approved an amendment proposed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, that could be detrimental to the social sciences. The amendment would require that about $30 million (or 0.5 percent) of the Research and Related Activities account at the National Science Foundation (NSF) be used only to support basic research in the biological and physical sciences. NSF currently prioritizes research investments based on the advice of its own experts and scholars and if this amendment became law, it could result in political influence into the NSF research process.

Two other amendments that targeted the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Census Bureau, proposed by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) respectively, were not taken up for consideration on the floor and therefore did not pass.

The spending package has little chance of passing the Senate, but President Trump has already signed a short-term budget measure to keep the government open at current funding levels through December 8, giving Congress more time to come up with a deal for the rest of FY 2018. Read COSSA’s full coverage of the FY 2018 spending debate here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 19), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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