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House Subcommittee Discusses 2019 NIH Budget

On April 11, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) heard testimony from leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 NIH budget request. NIH Director Francis Collins, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Director Diana Bianchi, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, National Cancer Institute Director Norman Sharpless, and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow all testified at the hearing. NIH was lauded for its accomplishments by members of both parties, further solidifying its position as a bi-partisan priority. Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and other members of the subcommittee expressed concern with the $2 billion cut recommended in the President’s FY 2019 budget request, in stark contrast to the $3 billion increase NIH received in the omnibus FY 2018 spending bill. Committee members also discussed NIH activities related to the opioid epidemic, the flu vaccine, medical and recreational marijuana, and cancer detection. A recording of the hearing and written statements from Collins and Cole can be found on the House Appropriations Committee’s website. COSSA’s coverage of FY 2019 funding is available here.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 17), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Funding; Cochran Retires

On March 23, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law, finalizing appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2018 nearly six months after the fiscal year began. The omnibus bill includes all 12 individual appropriations bills and will fund the federal government through September 30, 2018. This bill came after a bipartisan deal was reached to raise spending caps, which resulted in increases for many programs across the government – including those important to the social and behavioral sciences. The omnibus also served as a last hurrah for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, who announced that he will retire effective April 1 after serving in the Senate for 40 years. Cochran’s successor will be Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, who has most recently served as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 3), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Members Join Together to Support NIH, Title VI International Education in Dear Colleague Letters

As Congress begins deliberations on fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending, groups of Representatives have joined together to express their support for federal programs, including those important to the social and behavioral sciences. A bipartisan group of 82 representatives signed on to a “Dear Colleague letter” in support of the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays and Title VI international education programs. The letter calls for at least $72.16 million for the two programs. Separately, a bipartisan group of 209 Representatives also joined together to express support, and request $38.4 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 3), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on NSF Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request

On March 15, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Witnesses included NSF Director France Córdova, National Science Board Chair Maria Zuber, and NSF Chief Operating Officer Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) presided over the hearing and used his opening statement to express concern about several grants NSF has supported in the past that he does not consider to be addressing issues of national importance, a concern echoed by many other Republican members of the committee. Smith also expressed concern, shared by committee members on both sides of the aisle, that the U.S. is falling behind its international competitors in investment in research and development.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, used her opening statement to share her concern with NSF’s budget request being flat compared with the agency’s FY 2017 appropriation, and NSF’s proposed disproportionate cuts to education programs and the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. Other members of the committee, including Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), expressed concern about the proposed cuts to the SBE Directorate. While not in attendance at the hearing, Dan Lipinski (D-IL) issued a statement for the record that expressed disappointment in the disproportionate cut to SBE.

Drs. Córdova and Zuber defended the agency’s support for the SBE sciences. Córdova shared that spectrum auctions, life-saving markets for kidney donations, and research in risk and resilience to natural disasters are all contributions of SBE-directorate supported research. Zuber added that the SBE directorate has supported research to understand what draws people to join violent extremist groups and that SBE-supported research in facial recognition aided in the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Drs. Córdova, Zuber, and Ferrini-Mundy answered questions about NSF’s merit review process, U.S. international competitiveness in research, sexual harassment in science, STEM education, and other topics. Their full written testimony and a webcast of the hearing is available here.

Read COSSA’s full analysis of NSF’s FY19 budget request here.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Passes Bipartisan Budget Deal to Raise Spending Caps, Keep Government Open Until March 23

On February 9, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a two-year deal to raise the budget caps that have limited federal spending since 2011. As COSSA has previously reported, these spending caps have limited the ability of Congress to pass full-year appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2018 and diminished the chances of federal science agencies would see funding increases.

The budget deal, known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, increases discretionary spending by $385 billion above the existing caps for the next two years. This increase includes $131 billion in non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, which includes federal research funding. The deal also includes additional funds to areas affected by natural disasters and funds for the Census Bureau to continue to prepare for the 2020 Census. This budget agreement is seen as major progress in a difficult fiscal and political environment.

Next on the appropriations agenda will be funding the government after March 23. The budget deal that passed on February 9 included another continuing resolution (CR) to maintain FY 2017 funding levels through March 23 to give Congressional leaders more time to finalize FY 2018 spending. Read COSSA’s full coverage of FY 2018 appropriations here.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Commerce Committee Hears Updates from NSF, NIST Leaders

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation featured Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Dr. Walter Copan, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in a hearing on January 30 to examine the implementation of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). AICA was signed into law during the final days of the Obama Administration in January 2017. AICA’s priorities included maximizing basic research, improving STEM education, and encouraging commercialization and technology transfer opportunities. Both NSF and NIST have taken many steps toward implementing the law including increasing oversight and accountability at both agencies and emphasizing the priorities of the act at their agencies. Dr. Córdova’s written testimony included a complete analysis of the steps NSF has taken to comply with the policy directives in the AICA.

During the hearing, Senators from both parties expressed concern about the U.S. being surpassed by China and other countries in terms of funding for science and innovation and called for continued diligence on the part of Congress and federal science agencies to maintain the U.S.’s position as the world’s leading innovator. Many Senators also discussed the importance of extending research opportunities and STEM education to diverse populations including community colleges, colleges and universities in EPSCoR states, minority communities, and women.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 6), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Government Funding Remains Uncertain; Another Stopgap Likely

Four months after fiscal year (FY) 2018 began, Congress seems no closer to appropriating funds for the remainder of the fiscal year or agreeing on top-line spending levels. The government is currently operating under a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) until February 8 and some Congressional leaders are considering a fifth CR that could fund the government into March. Larger policy debates, including immigration, have created a stalemate that must be resolved before spending levels or FY 2018 appropriations can be finalized. Further complicating this dynamic is the fact that Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced that he will retire at the end of this Congress after leading the committee for only one year, injecting even more confusion into an already uncertain future of Congressional appropriations.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 6), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

After Three-Day Shutdown, Congress Passes Funding through February 8

Congressional leaders came to an agreement on January 22 to reopen the government after a three-day shutdown by passing another stopgap spending bill, this time to keep the government open and flat-funded until February 8. Fiscal year (FY) 2018 started October 1, 2017 and Congress has yet to pass any appropriation bills for the year.

Congress came to the funding impasse on January 19 after the Senate failed to reach an agreement on immigration policy, which will now likely occupy much of Congress’ energy until the continuing resolution expires on February 8, at which point the federal government could be facing yet another shutdown. As COSSA has previously reported, Congress must also come to an agreement on the top-line spending levels allowed by law before finishing the FY 2018 appropriations process. Read more of COSSA’s reporting on FY 2018 here.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 23), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Returns from Recess Focused on Funding

Members of Congress returned from their holiday recess this week to a government funded under yet another stop-gap measure that is set to expire on January 19. Fiscal year (FY) 2018 started October 1 and Congress has yet to pass any appropriation bills for the year. Before any of the proposed legislation can be sent to the President’s desk, Congress must come to an agreement on the top-line spending levels allowed by law. These budget caps will decrease in FY 2018 under the Budget Control Act through sequestration, unless Congress passes a deal to increase the spending levels.

The renewed focus on government funding comes after Congressional Republicans passed their much-anticipated tax cut before the winter holidays. While the final tax bill did not include problematic proposed provisions to classify graduate student tuition waivers as taxable income, the tax plan would still add an estimated trillion dollars to the federal deficit over the next decade, which would likely lead to significant cuts to non-defense discretionary funding down the line, including federal research programs.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize International Education Programs

Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Advancing International and Foreign Language Education Act (S. 2255) on December 20 to reauthorize the Title VI International Education programs at the Department of Education. The bill is similar to H.R. 4491, which was introduced in the House last fall. Both bills aim to support the existing international education programs at the Department. Both Senate sponsors are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and may work to incorporate the proposals in the bill into the committee’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. More information can be found in Sen. Young’s press release.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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