Blog Archives

Pressure’s on as Congress Returns to Packed Agenda

Congress returns this week from its month-long August recess with just 12 working days left until fiscal year (FY) 2017 is a wrap. While September is a typically busy stretch as policymakers try to finish work on the annual appropriations bills and tie up other end-of-the-fiscal-year loose ends, the next few weeks promise to be even more challenging than recent years.

First on deck is an $8 billion emergency relief package in response to Hurricane Harvey. In addition, Congress will need to raise the federal debt ceiling in the next couple of weeks as well as take action to avoid a government shutdown before October 1. Prior to leaving for recess, Congress started making progress on the annual appropriations bills; work will continue over the next few weeks (see COSSA’s coverage here). In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the FY 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies bill later this week.

While a likely final outcome is a multi-bill omnibus, such a package will not make it to the President’s desk by the end of the month. Congressional leaders are now talking about a three month continuing resolution (CR) to give lawmakers until the end of the calendar year to complete work on the spending legislation.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Senate CJS Bill Approved by Committee; Congress Leaves for Recess

On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill; the bill was marked up in subcommittee on July 25. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee advanced its version of the CJS bill on July 13 (check out COSSA’s coverage of this and other FY 2018 appropriations bills). The CJS bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and many other federal departments and agencies. The next step for the bill is consideration by the full Senate. However, now that Congress has left town for the August recess, we will not see floor action until after Labor Day at the earliest.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census Bureau, and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 8), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Moves FY 2018 Spending Bills Ahead of August Recess

The House and Senate have worked in recent weeks to advance as many of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 annual appropriations bills as possible before heading out of town for the typical month-long August recess. Details have been emerging on lawmakers’ funding plans for agencies and programs important to the COSSA community.

The House Appropriations Committee approved two bills this month that provide the bulk of funding support for the social sciences. The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, Department of Justice, and Census Bureau, was approved on July 13. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the National Institutes of Health and other HHS agencies, Department of Education, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, was approved on July 19. The next step for both bills is consideration by the full House; however, that is not likely to happen until after the August recess when Congress returns following Labor Day. Instead, the House will work this week toward passing a so-called “security mini-bus” that will include the Defense, Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills; the package is likely to also contain $1.6 billion for the construction of President Trump’s southern border wall, which as one could expect leaves the fate of the FY 2018 appropriations process on touchy ground.

Over on the Senate side, the Appropriations Subcommittees are just starting their work on their versions of the FY 2018 spending bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill on July 20; the House Appropriations Committee advanced its bill on July 12. In addition, the Senate CJS bill will be marked up in subcommittee on July 25 and by the full Appropriations Committee on July 27. But even if the Senate were able to complete work on the CJS bill before leaving for recess (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to delay the Senate’s recess until mid-August to allow time to finish work on the Obamacare repeal), the differences in top-line funding between the House and Senate leave final negotiations on all of the appropriations bills still a tall order.

Adding in plans by House and Senate leaders to strike a larger budget deal to lift the annual spending caps (which would require the appropriations bills to be rewritten, including those already approved by committee) and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling by early October, policy makers will return to Washington this fall with a lot on their plate before the current fiscal year expires on September 30.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House Budget Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution

On July 12, the House Budget Committee approved a fiscal year (FY) 2018 Budget Resolution, an important first step for Congressional Republicans if they hope to complete work on the FY 2018 spending bills and overhaul the tax code during this Congress. The resolution proposes to increase defense funding by $72 billion and cut non-defense discretionary spending by $5 billion. This proposal would bring non-defense discretionary spending, which includes federal science agencies, to 17 percent below FY 2010 funding levels.

The measure passed the Committee on a party-line vote, but is facing an uphill battle as it moves to the House floor, as some of the most conservative members of the House have already voice opposition to the bill. A statement on the proposed budget from NDD United, a coalition working to increase the non-defense discretionary budget allocation, of which COSSA is a member, can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House Releases Draft Ag, CJS Appropriations Bills; Some Details Still Unclear

In the weeks leading up to the Independence Day recess, several House Subcommittees began their work for fiscal year (FY) 2018 in earnest by marking up draft appropriation bills, including the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (June 28) and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) (June 29).  While the text of the draft bills has been released, it is unlikely that their accompanying committee reports, which include more detailed information on funding and policy riders, will be made available until just before the bills are marked up by the full Appropriations Committee. Once that information is released, COSSA will produce a full analysis of both bills. Preliminary details on the House FY 2018 CJS and Agriculture bills follow.

The draft FY 2018 CJS appropriations bill, which the subcommittee marked up on June 29, includes $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a $133 million cut compared to FY 2017 but 10.3 percent more than the amount requested by the Trump Administration. Most of the subaccounts within the NSF budget, including the Research and Related Activities account, would be flat compared to FY 2017. The exception is NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, which would be cut by 62.8 percent compared to FY 2017. The bill’s proposal for the Census Bureau would provide it with $1.507 billion in FY 2018, an increase of $37 million more than the amount enacted in FY 2017 and $12.6 million above the Administration’s requested amount. Within that amount, $1.251 billion is provided for Periodic Censuses and Programs, which includes the 2020 Census, an increase of $51 million compared to FY 2017. The bill would also provide the Bureau’s Periodic Surveys and Programs with $256 million, a $14 million cut compared to the FY 2017 enacted level.

The House’s FY 2018 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which was approved by the subcommittee on June 28, largely accepts the Administration’s proposed cuts to USDA statistical agencies (see COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s budget request). The bill would provide $76.8 million to the Economic Research Service (ERS), a roughly $10 million or 11.5 percent cut compared to FY 2017. This amount is 0.1 percent more than the amount requested by the President. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would receive a total of $183.8 million, 1.2 percent less than the amount request by the Administration and an increase of 7.3 percent from FY 2017. NASS will conduct its Census of Agriculture in 2018 and the increase is part of a scheduled ramp-up. While the House bill would provide NASS overall with less than the amount requested by the Administration, it would allocate more of that money to Census of Agriculture activities, leaving even less funding available for NASS’ other Agricultural Estimates programs. While the total discretionary funding level proposed for the National Institute of Agriculture (NIFA) is not detailed in the draft legislation, the bill does specify a total of $830.4 million for NIFA’s Research and Education Programs, which include the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This amount is a 2.3 percent cut from FY 2107, but 7.9 percent more than the President’s request.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 11), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

FY 2018 Funding Bills Off to a Slow Start

The House and Senate are heading down different paths as they attempt to kick-start the fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations process before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. As previously reported, the annual appropriations process is significantly delayed this year with the President’s budget request having been transmitted to Congress just last month (it is usually due in early February).

Appropriations subcommittees in both chambers have begun holding their annual hearings to discuss the budget requests for agencies under their purview (see related article on the NIH budget hearing). Some subcommittees have begun writing their appropriations bills, even without knowing what their spending allocation—the topline budget they are allotted for their bill—is for next year. Some have chosen to write their bills using current FY 2017 funding levels, while others are assuming small increases.

Given that there are less than 40 working days left before the next fiscal year begins, House leaders have expressed an interest in foregoing regular order altogether and instead crafting a catch-all omnibus appropriation bill. To accomplish this, however, subcommittees would need to start marking up and passing their bills out of committee over the next several weeks so they can be compiled into a 12-bill package before September 30.

The Senate, on the other hand, is taking a more deliberate approach and would prefer to advance each of the appropriations bills individually through the committee process before September so that they can be in a good negotiating position with the House when it comes time to finish up the bills later this fall.

Either way, we may start to see details of the appropriations bills of interest to the research community emerge following the July 4 recess.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 27), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Senate Subcommittee Discusses FY 2018 NIH Budget, Pledges Support

On June 22, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Appearing before the committee were NIH Director Francis Collins and six institute and center directors, including Douglas Lowy of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Gary Gibbons of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Richard Hodes of the National Institute of Aging (NIA), Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and Joshua Gordon of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

As previously reported, the Trump Administration’s budget request for NIH seeks a cut of $7 billion or about 22 percent from current levels. The proposed reduction came at the same time Congress was putting the finishing touches on its $2 billion increase for the agency in FY 2017. NIH funding has long been one of the rare instances of unified, bipartisan support in Congress. In fact, at the outset of the hearing, LHHS Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) criticized the President’s request, stating that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with the proposed reduction.” While over the last two years Congress has worked to increase the NIH budget by more than 13 percent, the Administration offers a budget that would result in the loss of 90,000 jobs and $15.3 billion in economic activity, stated the chairman. Subcommittee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) added that the proposed cut would represent the lowest funding level for the agency since 2002. Other Subcommittee members expressed their objection to the request and pledged their support for increased NIH funding again in FY 2018. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 27), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House Subcommittee Discusses FY 2018 NSF Budget

On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) held a hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), featuring NSF Director France Córdova. Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) opened the hearing by recognizing the important role NSF plays as the sole federal funder of basic research across all fields of science. Culberson also added that the subcommittee is going to work in a bi-partisan fashion to ensure that NSF is “appropriately funded” despite the tough budgetary environment and the appropriations process getting off to a slow start. As COSSA previously reported, the President’s budget request includes $6.7 billion for NSF, which would be a $819 million or 11.2 percent cut.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee expressed concerns about the impact the proposed cuts would have on different scientific disciplines and NSF-funded facilities like the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Ranking Member José Serrano (D-NY) recognized the significance of the proposed cut to the NSF, as it represents the first time a President has proposed decreasing funding for the agency in its 50-year history. Unlike appropriations deliberations in recently years, there was no discussion of funding the NSF directorates at specific levels or targeting individual fields for cuts.

Director Córdova emphasized the importance of the social and behavioral sciences in an exchange with Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who inquired about the impact of the requested budget cut on research in cybersecurity. Dr. Córdova explained that the cuts would have an impact on cybersecurity research including the import interdisciplinary work being done between the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate.

While the Subcommittee members seemed in agreement that they did not want to see cuts to federally-funded basic research, the next steps for the NSF budget are unclear. Chairman Culberson mentioned that the subcommittee has yet to receive its budget allocation, which will delay an already-shortened appropriations timeline for FY 2018.

An archived webcast of the hearing and Dr. Córdova’s written testimony are available here.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Letters Urge Congressional Leaders to Support Research Agencies

COSSA joined dozens of scientific societies and research universities on a letter to Congressional leaders, sent on May 24, urging them to reject the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to science agencies including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and more.

Similarly, in a Dear Colleague letter sent to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, 29 Senators expressed their support for the National Science Foundation. The letter calls for the National Science Foundation to receive at least $8 billion in fiscal year 2018 to help ensure the U.S. will remain a world economic leader.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 30), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Overhead Costs of Research

The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology co-hosted a hearing on the overhead costs of research on May 24. The focus of the hearing was the indirect costs incurred from research, reimbursed by the government as part of research grant awards. The subcommittees primarily discussed the indirect costs from awards made by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Witnesses included Dale Bell from the Division of Institution and Award Support at NSF; John Newmann of the Government Accountability Office; James Luther, Vice President for Finance and Compliance at Duke University; and Richard Vedder, Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Committee members expressed concern about the rising proportion of federal funds going to reimburse indirect costs, which include administrative and facilities costs. Members also expressed concern that the process for negotiating indirect cost rates is becoming more complicated, benefitting larger and wealthier research institutions.

No consensus on how to address the rising proportion of indirect costs emerged. While some members suggested that indirect costs should be taken into consideration when NSF decides to award a grant, others focused on how NSF can continue to fund quality research despite the rising indirect costs.

This hearing represented a continuation of discussions from the 114th Congress about the administrative burden on federally funded researchers, which Research and Development Subcommittee leadership expressed interest in continuing. Witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing is available on the Science Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 30), Update, Volume 36 (2017)


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