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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)

COSSA Issues Statement Calling for Budget Deal

On April 25, COSSA issued a statement calling on Congress to reach a deal that will prevent the budget cuts scheduled to take effect during fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021. The statement highlights the potential impact of these cuts on federal research agencies, particularly those that fund social science research or produce data used by social scientists: “Almost every national priority—health, defense, agriculture and conservation, hazards and natural disasters—relies on science and engineering; the social and behavioral sciences play an important role in helping to address the complex human-centered challenges our nation faces. If America is to continue its global leadership in science and innovation and keep pace with other nations that are doubling-down on their investments in research, we cannot afford to let arbitrary, across-the-board cuts to science and research agencies—including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and data-producing statistical agencies—hinder scientific progress.” The full statement is available on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 30), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Congress Returns; Subcommittees Begin Marking Up Spending Legislation

After a two-week spring recess, Congress is back in session and is moving ahead on fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending. As COSSA has reported, many agency leaders have already testified in front of appropriations subcommittees, with more expected in the coming weeks. Additionally, agency leaders important to the social and behavioral science enterprise, including leaders from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are expected to testify in front of committees with authorization jurisdiction over their agencies in the next month.

Appropriations subcommittees are also moving quickly on drafting spending bills, with the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill scheduled to be considered in subcommittee on April 30. This bill, the largest of the non-defense appropriations bills, is responsible for funding the NIH, Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics, among many other agencies. Less controversial bills, including those that fund the Legislative Branch and the Department of Veterans Affairs will be marked up soon after.

Although Congress is moving swiftly on FY 2020 funding, leaders have yet to reach a compromise on raising the discretionary spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. These spending caps must be raised before FY 2020 spending can be finalized.

COSSA has issued an action alert urging members to write to their Members of Congress to tell them to prioritize a budget deal that gives fair treatment to vital non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs—including science and research agencies—which have disproportionately borne the brunt of federal spending cuts over the past several years.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 30), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Talks Continue as Congress Attempts to Raise Budget Caps

As previously reported, fiscal year (FY) 2020 discretionary spending is subject to austere caps that were put in place in 2011 as part of a larger effort to significantly reduce the size of the federal budget over 10 years. The Budget Control Act of 2011, or BCA, put in place caps on discretionary spending for both nondefense and defense spending for the period of 2013 through 2021. COSSA joined a letter with over 800 organizational signatures urging Congress to raise these spending caps.

Congressional leaders are now considering several solutions to raise the discretionary spending caps and are currently taking part in high-level negotiations. Proposals include a possible comprehensive multi-year budget resolution, a less-restrictive “deeming resolution,” or legislation that would undo the budget cap requirements altogether. This most notable legislation, H.R. 2021, the Investing for the People Act of 2019, was introduced by Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), Chair of the House Budget Committee, and would increase discretionary spending limits for the next two fiscal years. COSSA has also joined NDD United to support the passage of H.R. 2021.

COSSA has also released an Action Alert for COSSA Members to communicate directly with their Members of Congress on the importance of raising the caps on non-defense discretionary spending.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Release of President’s Budget Puts Pressure on Congress to Raise Caps; COSSA Urges Advocates to Take Action

The release of the President’s budget request signals the official kick-off of the annual appropriations process in Congress. However, before Congress can fully dive into the FY 2020 bills, lawmakers must address a larger threat facing federal funding for next year. As COSSA has been reporting, discretionary spending that is appropriated every year by Congress has been subject to austere caps that were put in place in 2011 as part of a larger effort to significantly reduce the size of the federal budget over 10 years. The Budget Control Act of 2011, or BCA, put in place caps on discretionary spending for both nondefense and defense spending for the period of 2013 through 2021.

Thankfully, since 2013, Congress has been able to find bipartisan ways to amend the BCA and provide relief to the caps, allowing federal R&D agencies (as well as other parts of the federal budget) to achieve funding increases above the caps each year. However, the latest relief measures only raised the caps for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, meaning that unless Congress acts to address the caps again for FY 2020, they will take effect once again, resulting in a cut of $54 billion (9 percent) from nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending (which includes most research accounts), and $71 billion (11 percent) from defense discretionary accounts. In future years, under the President’s proposal, NDD funding would be reduced by an additional 2 percent each year through 2029, while shifting funding to “resource national defense requirements.” Interestingly, the President’s request itself violates the BCA by proposing to bust the defense discretionary caps by $165 billion (using the controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to further pad defense budgets). Therefore, regardless of where you stand, a deal will need to be struck in some form in the coming months if either side—defense or nondefense—are to see desired increases.

Lawmakers have already started talks and will be working for the next several months to attempt to strike a deal to prevent these cuts from taking effect in FY 2020. Of course, given the hyper-partisan and contentious nature of today’s Washington, a bipartisan deal is not guaranteed. You can expect to see the funding debate heat up in the coming weeks and perhaps also stretch into the fall or beyond.

COSSA has issued an action alert urging members to write to their Members of Congress to tell them to prioritize a budget deal that gives fair treatment to vital non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs—including science and research agencies—which have disproportionately borne the brunt of federal spending cuts over the past several years.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA Urges Action on Non-Defense Discretionary Spending

Before Congress can fully dive in to the FY 2020 appropriations process (see related article), it must address a larger threat facing funding for next year. As COSSA has reported, the Budget Control Act of 2011 put in place caps on discretionary spending for every year between 2013 and 2021, which limit how much Congress can spend every year with an aim of reducing the federal deficit. Thankfully, Congress took action since 2013 to amend the law and raise the caps, which has allowed funding for federal research agencies to increase above the painful caps. Unfortunately, the relief enacted by Congress expires in FY 2020, meaning if Congress does not act this year to provide relief (to “raise the caps”), these draconian spending limits will be back in force and translate to devastating cuts to programs important to our community.

In response, COSSA has issued an action alert urging members to write to their Members of Congress to tell them to prioritize a budget deal that gives fair treatment to vital non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs—including science and research agencies—which have disproportionately borne the brunt of federal spending cuts over the past several years.

The action alert can be found on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Congress Returns from Recess Focused on Funding

Members of Congress returned from their holiday recess this week to a government funded under yet another stop-gap measure that is set to expire on January 19. Fiscal year (FY) 2018 started October 1 and Congress has yet to pass any appropriation bills for the year. Before any of the proposed legislation can be sent to the President’s desk, Congress must come to an agreement on the top-line spending levels allowed by law. These budget caps will decrease in FY 2018 under the Budget Control Act through sequestration, unless Congress passes a deal to increase the spending levels.

The renewed focus on government funding comes after Congressional Republicans passed their much-anticipated tax cut before the winter holidays. While the final tax bill did not include problematic proposed provisions to classify graduate student tuition waivers as taxable income, the tax plan would still add an estimated trillion dollars to the federal deficit over the next decade, which would likely lead to significant cuts to non-defense discretionary funding down the line, including federal research programs.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NDD United Highlights Impacts of Budget Cuts in Faces of Austerity 2.0 Report

On October 25, NDD United, a broad coalition of stakeholders interested in protecting non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs from budget cuts (including COSSA), held a congressional briefing to celebrate the launch of its latest report, Faces of Austerity 2.0: How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure. The report explores how sequestration and the Budget Control Act put programs that millions of Americans rely on at risk. NDD United is calling upon Congress to stop NDD funding cuts by treating defense and nondefense programs equally, maintaining the precedent set in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. NDD United aims to demonstrate that these budget cuts are not just numbers on paper, but represent real and increasingly difficult challenges for many Americans.

At the congressional briefing, NDD United invited a panel of five speakers to share their personal experiences with cuts to NDD programs. Melissa Armas, a mother and volunteer with Parent Voices CA, shared her story first. This past year, Melissa accepted a bonus from her employer, and because of it, she was $100 over the low-income threshold to receive a government subsidy that would allow her four-year-old daughter to attend daycare. Michael Gritton, Executive Director of KentuckianaWorks, an organization that educates, trains, and connects local job seekers with employers, shared that his organization has had to close two training centers and cut training programs by 40 percent because of NDD budget cuts. Joseph Hill-Coles, Community Navigator at Youth Services, Inc. used his personal experience as a homeless eighteen-year-old to amplify the need to fund “age and culturally appropriate” programs for homeless teens. Jim Northup, former Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, spoke about the necessity of a sustained annual national budget that allows agencies and programs to plan their yearly spending effectively. The final speaker, Ashley Webb, Prevention Program Manager for the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, explained how reliant state and local programs and organizations are on federal funding, especially in a state like Illinois where state funding is often unreliable. She echoed the voices of the other speakers when affirming that these programs should be able to spend “less time fundraising and more time working.”

This article was contributed by COSSA’s fall intern, Erin Buechele of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 31), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA & NDD Partners Call for End to Sequester

On February 18, COSSA joined more than 2,100 organizations on a letter to Congress calling for an end to sequestration in fiscal year (FY) 2016 and protection of nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending from additional cuts. The letter was organized by NDD United, a broad coalition of organizations that have banded together to combat cuts to NDD funding. Participants represent sectors from science and health to environment, justice, and civil rights.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 24), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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