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Senate Kicks Off Lame Duck Session by Releasing FY 2021 Spending Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee released all 12 of its annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021, which would fund the government for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2020. The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires on December 11 (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The House released all of its annual appropriations bills in July and passed 10 of them (see COSSA’s analysis). The Senate Appropriations Committee is not planning to consider the bills; rather, they will be used as a starting point for negotiations with House appropriators as both chambers attempt to reach an agreement to fund the government ahead of the December 11 deadline.

COSSA members can expect to receive COSSA’s full analysis of the Senate’s funding proposals for social science agencies in their inboxes later this week. You can ensure you are receiving COSSA’s members-only emails by filling out this form.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 10), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

President-Elect Biden and a Divided Congress: 2021 Policy Outlook

The results of the 2020 elections seemed to have something for everyone to be happy (or unhappy) about. Former Vice President Joe Biden pulled out a convincing electoral victory, and while President Trump has yet to concede and his team continues to threaten legal challenges to the results, these protestations seem to be largely political theater at this point. However, while winning the White House was obviously the most important outcome for Democrats, they dramatically underperformed expectations in the Congressional races. This outcome likely leaves President-elect Biden with a difficult landscape to navigate in order to enact his policy agenda after the transition.

Presidential Transition

With the presidential race decided, attention now turns to the presidential transition. Almost immediately, the President-elect’s team began moving forward with plans and key appointments. The President-elect launched a transition website that so far lists four major priorities for the new Administration: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change. In addition, the transition team has appointed a COVID-19 Advisory Board headed by David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner and Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco; Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine. COSSA will continue to provide updates on plans for the transition, including notable policies and appointments.

House Races

While Democrats headed into Election Day hoping to expand their majority in the House of Representatives, the results tell a different story. The House will likely remain under Democratic control; however, at the time of this writing, Republicans flipped eight seats while Democrats have netted only three.

Notable Results:

  • Donna Shalala (D-FL), former Clinton cabinet member and professor of political science, was defeated in a re-match with Maria Elvira Salazar (R).
  • Kendra Horn (D-OK), member of the House Science Committee, lost to Oklahoma State Senator Stephanie Bice (R).
  • Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), PhD political scientist and social science champion, lost his primary bid to a more progressive Democrat, Marie Newman, earlier this year. Newman went on to win the seat against her Republican challenger in the general election.

Despite these losses, several major science—including social science—champions on both sides of the aisle won reelection. A few races remain too close to call, such as incumbent Rep. Matt Cartwright’s (D-PA) bid against Trump booster Jim Bognet (R); Rep. Cartwright is a pro-science member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Also important to watch is the incoming Republican freshman class, which will be skewed pro-Trump. Of particular note is the election of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO), both proud QAnon conspiracy theorists, and Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who served as the White House physician from 2013-2018.

Senate Races

Underwhelming performance by Democrats in the Senate races was also a major headline, especially given that Democrats went into Election Day with the real potential of securing Senate control. Republican incumbents defied the odds, with a net loss of only one seat (having lost two and flipped one). Given the likely win of the Republican incumbents in the two outstanding Senate races (Alaska and North Carolina), we expect control of the Senate to be decided by a runoff election for Georgia’s two Senate seats in early January. The Democrats would need to flip both seats to tie control of the Senate 50-50, which would allow the Democratic White House to break ties in their favor.

Notable Results:

  • Cory Gardner (R-CO), who has been a visible figure in pro-science policy activities over the last several years, was defeated by former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D).
  • Martha McSally (R-AZ) has been unseated by astronaut Mark Kelly (D).
  • Gary Peters (D-MI), vocal supporter of science, narrowly won reelection in Michigan.
  • GOP incumbents Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) all squeaked out wins in highly competitive races.

With so many unknowns, close monitoring over the next several weeks will be critical to determining a path forward for social science advocacy. Stay tuned to COSSA for the latest developments.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 10), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Impeachment, Natural Disasters and Elections Signal Difficult Road Ahead for FY 2021 Appropriations

The second session of the 116th Congress kicked off earlier this month, and while the new year did not begin with a historically-long government shutdown as it did in 2019, Congress still faces a myriad of challenges to completing spending bills for the coming fiscal year. The Senate is expected to begin the impeachment trial of President Trump on January 21, which will fully occupy the Senate’s time, leaving significant legislative debates until after the trial concludes, which could be several weeks. While the House has finished its impeachment business, a backlog of work remains for the lower chamber, including passing disaster funding for earthquake-stricken Puerto Rico.

Another hurdle to finishing spending decisions on time is the 2020 general election. The majorities in both the House and Senate are at stake and leadership in both chambers have included significant amounts of recess time into their 2020 schedules, ensuring facetime with constituents but leaving less time to legislate. Despite the many challenges that lie ahead, Congressional leaders have continued to express interest in completing fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Continue to follow the COSSA Washington Update for news on FY 2021. If you are a COSSA member, you can hear further analysis on what challenges and opportunities COSSA anticipates in the coming year in the recording of January’s COSSA Headlines.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Scientific Integrity at Federal Agencies

On July 17, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a joint subcommittee hearing on scientific integrity in federal agencies. The hearing, which was hosted by the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, included discussion of current and past issues of scientific integrity in the federal government and H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act. The Scientific Integrity Act, introduced by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), directs federal agencies that fund or direct public science to establish and maintain clear scientific integrity principles and formalizes existing scientific integrity policies. The bill also clarifies that science within the federal government should determine policy without political, ideological, or financial conflicts of interest.

Witnesses included John Neumann, the Managing Director of Science and Technology Assessment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Michael Halpern, the Deputy Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Roger Pielke, a professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado; and Joel Clement of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Both Democrat and Republican members of the committee emphasized the importance of scientific integrity in their statements, but recommended different approaches moving forward; Democrats recommended the committee advance the Scientific Integrity Act, while Republicans argued that the issue of scientific integrity was being politicized and science advice was being inappropriately conflated with policy recommendations.

A recording of the hearing and statements from committee leadership and witnesses can be found on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Congress and White House Strike Budget Deal Before Congress Leaves for Recess

As Congress prepares to leave for its annual August recess, Congressional leaders have struck a deal with the White House to raise the budget caps and debt ceiling for the coming fiscal years. The deal will allow for an increase in defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and provide relief from the final two years of automatic budget cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This deal means that increases are now possible for programs across the government, including research, healthcare, and the upcoming 2020 Census. As COSSA has reported, the House of Representatives is nearly done working on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, but the Senate was delaying any spending decisions until a deal was reached to address the limits discretionary spending. The Senate is now expected to start working in haste to draft spending bills after they return from recess. Congress has until the end of September to finish work on FY 2020, pass a continuing resolution, or risk another government shutdown.

COSSA has also released an Action Alert for COSSA Members to communicate directly with their Senators to urge them to support social science research.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Hosts Hearing on Societal and Ethical Implications of Artificial Intelligence

On June 26, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a hearing to examine the societal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). The committee heard testimony from Meredith Whittaker of the AI Now Institute at New York University, Jack Clark of OpenAI, Joy Boulamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League, and Georgia Tourassi of the Health Data Sciences Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Committee Members and witnesses discussed the impact of AI on bias, the changing nature of work due to AI, and the impact of AI on the economy, including the delivery of healthcare. Social science was highlighted multiple times as one of the areas where additional research is most needed. The Science Committee is expected to begin working on bipartisan legislation to support a national strategy on AI in the coming months. A recording of the hearing and copies of witness statements are available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Nearly Finalizes Appropriations; Senate Movement Uncertain

Before Congress left for its annual Independence Day recess, the House of Representatives got a few steps closer to completing its work on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations. At the time of this writing, the House has passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills, with only the Homeland Security and Legislative Branch funding bills remaining. The House has passed funding for agencies important for social science including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Agriculture. Details about the proposed funding for those agencies can be found in COSSA’s full analyses of the Commerce, Justice, Science; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Agriculture appropriations bills on COSSA’s website.

While the House has finalized nearly all of its appropriations bills, the Senate has signaled that they expect a deal on top-line funding levels or “caps” before beginning work on individual appropriations bills. Congress and the White House have not agreed on final discretionary spending levels for FY 2020, so it is unclear when the Senate Appropriations Committee will start the process of considering FY 2020 bills. As COSSA has reported, discretionary budget caps must be raised if federal agencies and programs are to receive any funding increases in FY 2020. Read COSSA’s full analysis of FY 2020 spending on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Science Committee Leadership Finalized; First Bills Introduced

On January 4, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was elected the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, after announcing her intention to seek the gavel following the 2018 midterm elections. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) was named Ranking Member of the Committee in December. Representatives Johnson and Lucas announced on the first day of the 116th Congress that they had jointly introduced two bills, one to combat sexual harassment in science, and one to integrate energy and water research at the Department of Energy. The two bills, H.R. 36, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 and H.R. 34, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019, with their bipartisan co-sponsorship, represent what many in the scientific community hope to be a new era of bipartisanship on the House Science Committee. COSSA has endorsed the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Republicans Announce Committee Leadership for the 116th Congress

House Republicans have begun to announce committee leadership appointments for the 116th Congress, following the loss of their majority in November’s election. As a result of a historic number of Republican retirements, including nearly half of all committee chairs, and a loss of 40 House seats in the midterm election, there will be many new faces among Republican committee leadership in the new Congress. Notably for social science, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) will serve as the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and Kay Granger (R-TX) will be the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. Lucas has previously served as Vice Chair of the House Science Committee and Granger previously led the powerful Defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

While House Democrats have yet to announce the official roster of committee chairs for the new congress, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is expected to take the gavel of the House Science Committee (and has already announced her priorities), and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is expected to lead the House Appropriations committee. Appropriations subcommittee chairs and ranking members have not yet been announced.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 11), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Rep. Johnson Seeks Science Chairmanship, Announces Priorities for the New Congress

On November 6, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) announced her interest in seeking the chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Johnson has served as the Ranking Minority Member of the Science Committee since 2010, and, should she be elected chair—which is expected—she will become the first woman and the first person of color to lead the committee. In her announcement she included three priorities for the committee in the coming year, including: ensuring the United States remains the global leader in innovation, addressing the challenge of climate change, and restoring the “credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.” Committee assignments will come in the early months of 2019; COSSA will report on the details as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 27), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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