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Senate Appropriations Efforts Slow to Start as End of Fiscal Year Looms

Both chambers of Congress returned to Washington following the annual August recess and, as COSSA has reported, they only have a few weeks to make progress on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills before FY 2019 ends on September 30. At the time of this writing, the full House of Representatives has passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills and the Senate has passed two bills out of the full Appropriations Committee.

While the Senate has jumped into appropriations upon returning from recess, with two bills approved in committee and consideration of 3 bills scheduled, there remains only about a handful of legislative days in the fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee had scheduled a mark-up for the Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill, which includes funding for the National Institutes of Health and Department of Education, among other programs, but after a disagreement on whether controversial amendments should be considered, the mark-up was postponed indefinitely. No further details have been released on when the bill will be considered.

Congress could face yet another government shutdown unless bills or a continuing resolution (CR) are passed by both chambers and signed by the President before the end of the month. Leadership in both chambers have publicly supported passing a CR to prevent a government shutdown, and the House is expected to vote this week on a measure to keep the government open until Thanksgiving. Senate leadership has not indicted when it plans to vote on stop-gap funding.

COSSA has been reporting on the status of the FY 2020 House appropriations bills over the last several months. Check out our consolidated analysis of the FY 2020 bills for details.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 17), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee to Host Hearing on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

The Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will host a hearing on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work on September 24. The hearing will feature Dr. Arthur Lupia, Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation; Dr. Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor of Management Science and Director at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy; Ms. Rebekah Kowalski, Vice President of Manufacturing Services at the ManpowerGroup; and Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President of Ivy Tech Community College. Dr. Lupia is expected to discuss the NSF Ten Big Ideas, including Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. The hearing can be watched live online at 2:00pm on September 24, and will be recorded on the Science Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 17), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

State of Play: FY 2020 Appropriations for Social Science Research

Both chambers of Congress will be back in Washington next week and will have only a few weeks to make progress on the fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills before FY 2019 ends on September 30. At the time of this writing, 10 of the 12 appropriations bills have been passed by the full House of Representatives. However, the Senate had deferred its consideration of any spending bills (even in subcommittee) until a compromise was reached to provide reprieve from budget caps set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

On August 2, President Trump signed a two-year budget agreement that provides federal programs relief from these automatic spending cuts. The deal allows Congress to appropriate increases for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, including for research, healthcare, and the upcoming 2020 Census. However, the House bills, as currently written, total about $15 billion more in nondefense spending than the final budget cap negotiated for FY 2020, meaning the House will need to revisit some of its bills when they return September 9 and in some cases make adjustments.

The passage of the budget deal clears the way for Congress to pass FY 2020 funding bills when it returns. We expect the Senate to hit the ground running on appropriations bills in early September. However, with no appropriations bills currently introduced in the Senate and the end of the fiscal year looming on September 30, time is the most critical factor; Congress could face yet another government shutdown unless bills or a continuing resolution (CR) are passed by both chambers and signed by the President before the end of the fiscal year. We predict a CR will be passed to allow policymakers additional time to complete work on FY 2020.

COSSA has been reporting on the status of the FY 2020 House appropriations bills over the last several months. Check out our consolidated analysis of the FY 2020 bills for details.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 3), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Sen. Schatz, Rep. Dean Introduce Legislation to Reestablish Science Advisory Board at the Department of Justice

On July 25, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA) introduced S. 2286 and H.R. 3989, the Improving Justice Programs through Science Act. If enacted, the bill would reestablish a Science Advisory Board at the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) within the Department of Justice to better integrate scientific knowledge to inform crime reduction nationwide and provide scientific backing and evidence-based policies in the OJP’s programs and activities, including grants.

The Board was originally chartered by the Obama Administration in 2010 and since then provided OJP with guidance in several proactive criminal justice reform efforts, including: the importance of trauma-informed care, procedural justice and building trust between police and communities, and youth brain development and implications for juvenile justice programs.

On September 3, COSSA released a statement in support of the bill, which can be read in full on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 3), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Budget Deal Signed; Congress Leaves for Summer Recess with FY 2020 Outcome Unknown

On August 2, President Trump signed a two-year budget agreement that provides federal programs relief from automatic spending cuts set to take effect in fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021 as well as raises the debt ceiling for two years. The deal allows Congress to appropriate spending increases for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, including for research, healthcare, and the upcoming 2020 Census. The passage of the budget deal clears the way for Congress to pass FY 2020 funding bills when it returns in September from its annual summer recess, but it will have to act quickly to avert a government shutdown on October 1. As COSSA has reported, the House of Representatives has nearly completed its work on FY 2020 appropriations, but the Senate delayed considering any spending bills 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 it returns from recess.

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

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 6), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Subcommittee Holds OSTP Oversight Hearing; Senate Confirms Nominee for Chief Technology Officer

On July 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) held an oversight hearing with the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Kelvin Droegemeier. Members of the Subcommittee questioned Droegemeier on a variety of topics including the White House’s position on the human impacts of climate change, Trump administration priorities in research and development, the recent activities of several OSTP joint committees, ethical concerns such as foreign interference in research and bias in artificial intelligence, and potential partnerships between OSTP and other federal agencies. Drogemeier has been a vocal proponent of social and behavioral science research and cited the importance of “tackling the social and behavioral science dimensions” of critical issues. A recording of the hearing can be found on the CJS Subcommittee website.

Later that day, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (CST) held a hearing concerning the nominations for several appointed positions including that of Michael Kratsios, nominee for Associate Director and Chief Technology Officer at OSTP. A week later on August 1, the full Senate officially confirmed Kratsios by voice vote to be the first Chief Technology Officer since 2017. Kratsios, who has been the de facto technology adviser at OSTP for two years, discussed with Committee Members his past work and policy plan for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G technology. The full nominations hearing can be found on the CST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 6), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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)

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