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Committees Begin to Announce Leadership, Membership as FY 2019 Funding Remains Uncertain

While some parts of the federal government, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, and the Census Bureau, remain closed as part of the partial government shutdown, Congress is at work organizing committees, selecting leaders, and preparing for the work of the 116th Congress. Many Congressional leadership positions important to the social and behavioral sciences have been announced over the past few weeks.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both announced their subcommittee leadership, and while leadership on Senate subcommittees important to the social and behavioral sciences will remain unchanged from the last Congress, new House leadership has come along with the new House majority. Representative José Serrano (D-NY) will chair the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will lead the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Their Republican counterparts will be Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Tom Cole (R-OK), respectively.

Many changes have come to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which is responsible for policy related to the National Science Foundation (NSF), among numerous other programs. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) will serve as the new Chair of the Committee for the 116th Congress and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will serve as the Ranking Member. The Senate Commerce Committee also announced a new subcommittee structure, with science policy now paired with fisheries, weather, and oceans; the newly-structured subcommittee will be chaired by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). Senator Gardner was one of the recipients of the 2017 COSSA Distinguished Service Award. As previously reported, the House Science Committee has also announced full committee leadership. Stay tuned to the COSSA Washington Update for more committee and leadership announcements in the coming weeks.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 22), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Chairwoman Johnson Introduces Gun Violence Research Act

On January 11, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, introduced the National Gun Violence Research Act. If enacted, the law would create a national gun violence research program overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and carried out by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. In a statement released after the bill was introduced, Rep. Johnson said that more research is needed on the impact of policies on gun violence and that investment in gun violence is needed to curb gun violence. More information can be found on the Science Committee website.

The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, a private research effort, recently announced a request for proposals on the causes and consequences of gun violence. More information can be found in COSSA’s previous coverage.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 22), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Government Shutdown Continues into Third Week, Leaving Uncertainty for FY 2019

The partial government shutdown has stretched into its third week, leaving many government agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, and the Census Bureau, shuttered. Unlike government shutdowns of the recent past, this shutdown is not related to disputed funding levels, but rather policy disagreements and political maneuvering. This means that we already have an idea of what the final funding numbers will be once the policy impasse has cleared, as Congress has already negotiated most of its appropriations bills. Once funding is finalized, COSSA will release an analysis reviewing the fiscal year (FY) 2019 outcomes for programs and agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences.

On January 3, the new Democratic leadership in the House proposed, and easily passed, an omnibus spending bill for the unfunded agencies that also allowed another month of debate on border security funding. It seems unlikely that the Senate will vote on the proposal and even more unlikely to receive a signature from the President. Read more about the appropriations bills important to social and behavioral science and the already finalized FY 2019 appropriations on the COSSA website.

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

Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill Awaiting President’s Signature

After languishing in the Senate for over a year, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174) was passed by both chambers in the last days of 2018 and is currently awaiting the President’s signature. The President has until January 14 to sign the bill into law. The legislation, which is intended to be a “down-payment” enacting some of the less complicated (and less controversial) recommendations of the report from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (see COSSA’s coverage and statement), contains some minor changes from the version passed by the House in November 2017 but generally conforms to the recommendations of the Commission. It contains four titles: (I) enhancing federal evidence-building activities; (II) enacting the OPEN Government Data Act introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI); (III) reauthorizing and enhancing the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA); and (IV) general provisions to ensure that the directions in the bill comport with existing laws and requirements. The Bipartisan Policy Center has published a summary of the Act and a crosswalk between its provisions and the recommendations of the Commission.

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

Droegemeier and Dillingham Confirmed in Final Hours of 115th Congress

In the final hours of the 115th Congress on January 2, the Senate confirmed nearly 80 presidential nominations, including Kelvin Droegemeier to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Steven Dillingham to lead the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. Droegemeier holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, has served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma, as the university’s vice president for research, and as Vice Chair of the National Science Board. Dr. Dillingham holds a Ph.D. in political science and has served as the Director for the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps; the Director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; and the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Both nominations were welcomed by the scientific and statistical communities as non-controversial choices for these two important roles.

William Beach, who was nominated to lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and William Bryan, who was nominated to direct Science and Technology efforts at the Department of Homeland Security were not confirmed and now must have their nominations resubmitted by the President.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), 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)

Congress Passes Stop-Gap Spending Bill, Averting Partial Government Shutdown

On December 7, President Trump signed a two-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open until December 21.  As earlier reported, Congress accomplished more appropriations work on time than in recent years, including passing the notoriously controversial Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill, but the fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding for many agencies is still uncertain. Notably, the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which is responsible for funding the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau, among other programs, is still pending; neither the House or Senate have taken up the bill outside of committee. House Republicans will be eager to finalize funding before the new Democratic-led House is seated in January, but controversial issues, including funding a wall on the US-Mexico border, may impede progress on FY 2019 funding. Read COSSA’s full FY 2019 coverage here.

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

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)

Democrats Take Control of the House in Midterm Elections; Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since early October. Lawmakers are returning to what many expected to be the outcome of the midterm elections, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate.

The Senate margin currently stands at 51 Republicans and 46 Democrats, with a run-off election scheduled in Mississippi, a recount of votes in Florida, and a race in Arizona still too close to call. The contests in Florida and Arizona are considered toss-ups while the Mississippi race is expected to stay in Republican hands. As many expected, the Democrats will have a strong majority in the House of Representatives come January with a current majority of 227 members to the Republican’s 198, with nearly a dozen races still too close to call. At this time, the House Democrats have gained 32 seats and the House Republicans have lost the same amount. Notable losses include several Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Representative John Culberson (R-TX), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science; Kevin Yoder (R-KS); David Young (R-IA); and Scott Taylor (R-VA). Several Republican members of the House Science Committee also lost their reelection bids, including Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA). Taken with the retirement of Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), this will result in an overhaul of the Republican roster on the Science Committee in the coming Congress. It will be some time before committee assignments for the 116th Congress will be made.

At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is finalizing the remaining fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending bills. About half of the spending bills have been signed into law, but funding for the National Science Foundation, Census Bureau, Department of Agriculture, and many other agencies is still not complete. The current continuing resolution ends on December 7 with Republicans anxious to complete the spending bills before Democrats take control of the House. Read about the state of play for FY 2019 appropriations here.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 13), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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