Blog Archives

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)

COSSA Endorses Bill to Combat Sexual Harassment in Science

On October 2, COSSA released a statement in support of H.R. 7031, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2018. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, would provide funding to the National Science Foundation to establish a grant program to study the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the scientific workforce, efficacy of interventions, and methods of remediating the negative impacts of sexual harassment. This legislation would also direct data collection about sexual harassment in science and establish and interagency working group to address this important issue. Read the full statement on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director

On October 3, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing to consider the Trump Administration’s nomination of Steven Dillingham for Director of the Census Bureau (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Bureau has been without a permanent director since June 2017 and is in the middle of a significant ramp-up as it prepares to conduct the 2020 Census. Dillingham’s nomination is relatively uncontroversial, particularly when compared to the more overtly political candidates the Administration is reported to have considered. In his opening statement, Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) called Dillingham “well-qualified,” and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill indicated after the hearing that she would support his nomination.

During the hearing, Dillingham avoided taking a stance on whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question in response to questions from both Republicans and Democrats. He also answered questions about keeping down the costs of the decennial census and strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations. The next step for Dillingham’s nomination is a vote by the full committee, which has not yet been scheduled. Following committee approval, the nomination must be approval by the full U.S. Senate. However, further action will not occur until after the November midterm elections since the Senate is in recess until then.

A recording of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Trump Signs Labor-HHS Bill/CR, Pushing Remaining FY19 Spending to Dec 7

On September 28, President Trump signed into law a fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding package containing two of twelve appropriations bills, the Defense Appropriations bill and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill. The bill had been passed earlier in the week by the House of Representatives. Of particular interest to the social science community, the Labor-HHS bill contains next year’s final appropriation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other federal departments and agencies. The passage of the Labor-HHS bill marks the first time in more than 20 years that this bill, which tends to be one of the most divisive among Republicans and Democrats, will be signed into law on time.

The package also includes a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the rest of the government operating until December 7 (the new fiscal year begins next week on October 1). Congress will return after the November midterm elections and attempt to complete its work on next year’s spending bills. Notably, still pending is the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which is responsible for funding the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau, among other programs; neither the House or Senate have taken up the bill outside of committee.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the final FY 2019 funding levels for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Department of Education.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 2), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations as Fiscal Year Comes to a Close

Fiscal year (FY) 2019 is coming quickly to an end on September 30, and while Congress has made more progress on appropriations than in recent years, much of the government is likely to be funded under a continuing resolution (CR) after October 1. At the time of this writing, 6 bills have been passed by the full House of Representatives and 9 bills have been passed by the Senate. The 9 Senate-passed bills are now in the process of having differences resolved in conference committees with the House. Notably, neither chamber has passed the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which is responsible for funding the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Census Bureau, among other programs.

Congress is likely to pass three multi-bill packages in the coming weeks, containing some combination of the 9 bills in conference, but likely not in time for the beginning of fiscal year 2019. One of the bill packages, a combination of the Republican-must-pass Defense spending bill and the Democratic-wish-list Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies spending bill includes a CR for the remaining unfunded portions of the government to fund them past the midterm elections. On September 13, the conference committee approved this package of bills, which included a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over their FY 2018 appropriation. Read complete COSSA coverage of FY 2019 appropriations here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 18), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Committee Seeks Answers from USDA on ERS/NIFA Plans

On September 7, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue with a list of questions about the Department’s plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of the Washington, DC area and to realign ERS with the Office of the Chief Economist (see COSSA’s previous coverage). In the letter, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) cite stakeholders’ concerns that the moves will lead to a “sharp loss of knowledgeable staff” and “erode critical partnerships with other federal agencies who are engaged in interdisciplinary research.” The letter asks for more detail from USDA on the motivation and rationale for the decision, the Department’s plans to execute the moves, and the legal authority underlying USDA’s ability to realign ERS. While no bipartisan action has been taken in the House, Democrats have expressed concerns about the proposal, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and the Democrats on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. A number of concerned stakeholder groups will hold a webinar with former USDA officials on Thursday, September 20.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 18), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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