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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)

Congress Completes FY 2020 Appropriations Process; Read COSSA’s Analysis

In a final, year-end show of bipartisanship, Congress passed all of its FY 2020 appropriations bills last month. While still nearly three months late (FY 2020 began on October 1), completion of all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year is a welcomed departure from recent years that had some agencies not receiving their final budgets until well into the new year. This officially closes the books on FY 2020 and allows lawmakers to hit the ground running on FY 2021 funding when the new session starts this week.

The two funding packages (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) together contain all 12 annual appropriations bills. In most cases, the final numbers tell a positive story for agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral sciences.

Read on for COSSA’s complete analysis of final FY 2020 funding for the agencies important to social science.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Native American Language Reauthorization Bill Signed into Law

On December 20, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act (S. 256) was signed into law. The legislation reauthorizes the Native American Languages Preservation and Maintenance grant program and the Esther Martinez Initiative grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services. Both programs support projects to preserve and revitalize Native languages in tribal communities. In addition to reauthorizing the two programs, the legislation increases the maximum possible duration of all Esther Martinez grants from three years to five years and decreases the required minimum number of enrollees in Native American language programs. The text of the bill can be read on congress.gov and more information about the programs can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Senate Passes Bipartisan Resolution Supporting 2020 Census

In December, the Senate passed a bipartisan concurrent resolution (S.Con.Res. 31) in support of the 2020 Census. The resolution, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expresses the sense of Congress that it is the duty of the people of the United States to ensure the 2020 Census is as accurate as possible, that the government should inform the public about its importance, and that U.S. residents should plan to respond. COSSA was one of several dozen organizations to endorse the resolution, which now awaits passage by the House to ensure Congress speaks with one voice.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Rushes to Finish FY 2020 as Schedule Fills

The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR), keeping the government open until December 20 at fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding levels. With less than two weeks left before the current stopgap spending bill expires, appropriators are hoping to finalize all twelve appropriations bills and pass them as soon as possible. In addition to the normal pressures of wrapping up annual appropriations before the holidays, Congressional leaders must also complete their year-end goals related to impeachment. The House has announced plans to vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year and the Senate must clear its schedule as legislative activities will grind to a halt during an impeachment trial. Stay tuned to COSSA’s website and Member Messages for updates related to FY 2020 appropriations.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Members of Congress Request Feedback on Cures 2.0 Legislation

On November 22, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) released a statement detailing a vision for an updated version of the 21st Century Cures Act and calling for stakeholder input. The proposed legislation, colloquially known as “Cures 2.0,” would provide funding for research into cures for several life-threatening diseases. The Members will accept stakeholder comments until December 16. Information on how to submit comments can be found in the Members’ statement.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Improving Science and Technology Advice for Congress

On December 5, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss options in improving the advice-giving infrastructure available to Members of Congress on science and technology issues. Members discussed recommendations from a recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report on Science and Technology Policy Assessment as well as the possibility of reinstating the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled in 1995. Witnesses present at the hearing included Director of Civil-Military Programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service Michael McCord, Director of the Technology and Public Purpose Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Laura Manley, Chief Scientist and Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Dr. Tim Persons, and Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Dr. Peter Blair.

Committee Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the NAPA report, the merits of reinstating OTA, technology assessment activities occurring at GAO, and other issues. While Members of both parties expressed interest in strengthening the quality of knowledge and tools available to Congress, the two parties disagreed on the method. Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and other Democrats supported a multi-lateral approach including reinstating and refunding OTA while Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and other Republicans favored a consolidation of technology assessment into GAO along with other recommendations listed in the NAPA report.

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations report for FY 2020 includes $6 million for the re-establishment of OTA. However, the Senate version does not include this funding which makes the reinstatement of OTA unlikely to become law. A recording of the hearing and a statement from Chairwoman Johnson can be found on the SST website and the full NAPA report can be found on the NAPA website.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

President Signs One-Month Continuing Resolution, Temporarily Averting Government Shutdown

The President signed a one-month continuing resolution (CR) on November 21 to keep the government operating at fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels until December 20. FY 2020 began on October 1 and while both the House of Representatives and the Senate have made progress on passing individual bills, contentious issues like top-line funding levels and funding for a wall on the southern U.S. border have kept Congress from finalizing FY 2020 spending. A notable exception to the flat funding required by the CR is additional funding authority given to the Census Bureau as the agency prepares for the 2020 Decennial Census. The CR provides the Census Bureau with $7.3 billion for Periodic Censuses and Programs, which includes the 2020 Census and is in line with the amount proposed by the Senate. See COSSA’s analysis of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill here and analysis of all of the House and Senate appropriations bills affecting social and behavioral science here.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 26), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Subcommittee Releases Report, Holds Hearing on Securing U.S. Research from Foreign Talent Recruitment Plans

On November 18, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a staff report on federal agencies’ efforts to protect the U.S. research enterprise from illegal technology transfer and research espionage occurring through foreign talent recruitment activities such as China’s Thousand Talents Plan. The report offers details of prevention activities employed at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of State, the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as well as a series of recommendations to improve these agencies’ efforts to prevent foreign interference in the U.S. research enterprise. The report can be found on PSI website.

A day later, PSI held a hearing to address the findings of the staff report and to improve upon current federal agency efforts to prevent intellectual property theft and technology transfer through foreign talent recruitment programs. Witnesses included Assistant Director of Counterintelligence at the FBI John Brown, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF Rebecca Keiser, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at NIH Michael Lauer, Director of the Office of Science at DOE Christopher Fall, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) Edward Ramotowski.

PSI Chairman Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and other Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the staff report and on agency knowledge of Chinese efforts to exploit the U.S. research enterprise. Several salient issues were discussed, such as agency efforts to harmonize security infrastructure and policies, ethics concerns over FBI investigations of international students, potential gaps in the visa control process, and raising awareness of security problems among the academic community. Statements from Portman, Carper, and a video recording of the hearing is available on the PSI website.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 26), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

FY 2020 Spending Still Uncertain, Continuing Resolution Likely Through December

As COSSA has reported, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap measure that has frozen funding for federal agencies at fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels, which is set to expire on November 21. On October 31, the Senate made progress on its FY 2020 appropriations work by passing a package of four spending bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill that funds the National Science Foundation and Census Bureau, but leaving the fate of the remaining eight appropriations bills – and final year funding – uncertain. While the final decisions on FY 2020 spending are yet to be settled, reports from Congress indicate that leadership in both chambers and the White House have come to an agreement that the next CR should only last until mid-December, putting pressure on Congress to finish its work before the holidays.

COSSA released an Action Alert calling on members to communicate directly with their Senators and Representatives to urge them to complete work on FY 2020 funding as soon as possible to mitigate any further uncertainty to federal science and statistical agencies.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 12), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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