Category Archives: Key Science Bills Enacted in the 115th Congress

S. 2200: National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018

This bill reauthorizes through FY2023 and modifies the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Program.

The bill amends the National Integrated Drought Information System Act of 2006 to require, under NIDIS, that the collection and integration of information on the key indicators of drought and drought impacts includes indicators of precipitation, soil moisture, and evaporative demand.

S. 2200 was signed into law on January 7, 2019.

S. 3530: Museum and Library Services Act of 2018

This bill amends and reauthorizes through FY2025 the Museum and Library Services Act and provides funding for library services and technology through FY2025. It became Public Law on December 31, 2018.

The bill expands the definitions of “library” and “museum” to include a tribal library or museum and expands the services museums are authorized to provide.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the 21st Century Museum Professional Program established by this bill, may enter into arrangements with museum, museum consortia and associations, institutions of higher education, and other entities for projects to

  • increase the number of students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds enrolled in graduate and undergraduate museum-related programs;
  • recruit future museum professionals from such backgrounds;
  • develop new or enhance current professional development and retention programs for museum professionals and the museum workforce; and
  • support and conduct research, needs assessments, pilot programs, and evaluation of education and professional development programs to recruit, prepare, educate, and retain the next generation of museum professionals.

HR 2: Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018

This bill (commonly known as the farm bill) reauthorizes through FY2023 and modifies Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that address, commodity support, conservation, trade and international food aid, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, research and extension activities, forestry, energy, horticulture, and crop insurance.

The bill was signed into law on December 20, 2018.

S. 2465: Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018

This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to government, educational, and nonprofit entities for the purpose of supporting data collection and public health activities regarding sickle cell disease.

Additionally, the bill reauthorizes through FY2022 and revises the sickle cell disease grant program for federally-qualified health centers, nonprofit hospitals or clinics, and university health centers.

The bill became Public Law on December 18, 2018.

HR 5895: Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019

Congress sent the first bipartisan spending package for fiscal year (FY) 2019, including the Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch spending bills, to the President on September 13, 2018.

The Senate passed the $147.5 billion “minibus” with a 92-5 vote on September 12, after which the House of Representatives approved the legislation by a vote of 377-20. The Conference Committee Report accompanying the spending package directs $44.6 billion (+3 percent) to the Energy and Water accounts, which include the Department of Energy Office of Science ($6.6 billion, +325 million). The bill provides the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), targeted for elimination by President Trump, with $366 million (+$13 million). Several contentious policy riders were dropped from the House version of the bill, including one that would have repealed the Obama-era Clean Water Rule. The White House has not indicated yet if the President will sign the bill into law.

HR 6157: Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019

President Trump signed into law this $853 billion spending bill in an attempt to avert a partial government shutdown. The spending package includes a stop-gap funding measure in the form of a continuing resolution (CR), which provides level funding for agencies that do not have new spending approved by October 1.

The House approved the “minibus” by a 361-61 vote on September 26, 2018. The Senate had approved the bill a week earlier. President Trump has agreed to sign the measure saying, “We’re going to keep the government open.”

The spending package includes fiscal year (FY) 2019 Defense, Labor-Health and Human Services, and Education spending bills along with the stop-gap CR. The CR provides funding for Interior-EPA, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Financial Services, Commerce-Justice-Science, State-Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security, until December 7. There will be a lame-duck session after the November elections to finish work on FY 2019 appropriations.

This is the second spending package that Congress has sent to the President. The first included the Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch spending bills for FY 2019 and was signed into law by President Trump on September 21.

The bill became Public Law on September 28, 2018.

S. 3508: Save Our Seas Act of 2018

The “Save Our Seas Act” reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act and extends the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022. The bill promotes international action to reduce trash in oceans and gives the NOAA Administrator the authority to declare severe marine debris events.

S. 3508 became Public Law on October 11, 2018.

HR 1625: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

Congress passed and the President signed a bipartisan appropriations bill with $1.3 trillion in federal spending for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The House voted 256-167 and the Senate voted 65-32 to approve the bill that distributes funding for the remainder of FY 2018. The omnibus appropriations legislation provides either increased or level spending for science agencies, ignoring the deep cuts proposed by the President.

Congressional leaders announced an agreement late on 21 March after several weeks of negotiations and six months into FY 2018. A majority of environmental riders were dropped from the final bill.

The bill funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.8 billion, $295 million above the FY 2017 enacted level, with the Research and Related Activities (RRA) accounts funded at $6.3 billion (+$301 million). The RRA line includes funding for the various research directorates, including the biological sciences directorate. Details are not yet available for how these funds would be allocated. The bill states “this strong investment in basic research reflects the Congress’ growing concern that China and other competitors are outpacing the United States in terms of research spending.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive $37 billion, a boost of $3 billion, rejecting the President’s proposed 22 percent cut to the agency. The bill includes $1.8 billion (+$414 million) for Alzheimer’s research.

The omnibus provides funding increases for many agencies and programs at the Department of the Interior (DOI). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is funded at $1.6 billion (+$75 million) with the legislation prioritizing funding for addressing the endangered species delisting backlog, combating invasive species, preventing illegal wildlife trafficking, and preventing closure of fish hatcheries.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), slated for a 15 percent cut under the President’s request, will be funded at $1.1 billion, an increase of $63 million over FY 2017 levels. Funding will be targeted to critical infrastructure investments in natural hazards programs, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. The legislation provides $23 million for early earthquake early warning systems and $26 million for funding the development of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements important for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions. The agency’s eight climate science centers will remain functional. The White House had proposed eliminating half of them.

The President’s FY 2018 request called for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget to be cut by 30 percent. The appropriations bill, however, provides level funding to the agency at $8.1 billion. EPA’s regulatory programs will be cut by $23.5 million. Funding for cleanup of Superfund sites will get a $66 million boost. The bill also includes $2.9 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds and $63 million for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act to support for water infrastructure projects. The bill emphasizes the Administration’s goal to “rein in outdated, unnecessary and potentially harmful regulations at the EPA” and includes riders prohibiting the agency from regulating lead content of ammunition. EPA’s science and technology programs will be supported at a flat budget of $116 million, rejecting the administration’s proposed $30.8 million cut to the program.

A report that accompanies the bill indicates that the legislation “does not include any requested funds for workforce reshaping” at the EPA. President Trump’s proposal would have allowed EPA to extract about $68 million from various programs for the reshaping effort, to be implemented through buyouts. The bill also limits the agency’s reorganization and restructuring efforts to $1 million.

The Energy and Water portion of the spending bill, which funds the Department of Energy (DOE) and Army Corps of Engineers, received $43.2 billion, an increase of $4.7 billion. DOE will receive across the board funding increases, including for research efforts and energy efficiency programs. DOE’s Office of Science will see a 16 percent or $800 million funding boost to a record $6.26 billion. An increase of $163 million is targeted for advanced scientific computing research, a priority of the President. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, slated for elimination in the President’s budget, will receive a record level funding of $353 million (+$47 million).

Agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will receive $3.03 billion, an increase of $138 million over FY 2017. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is funded at $400 million. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is funded at $6 billion, with $2.8 billion targeted at wildfire prevention and suppression. The USFS received $6.07 billion in FY 2017.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be funded at $1.2 billion, $247 million above FY 2017. Core research activities at NIST will receive $725 million, although support for other “lower priority” activities will be reduced.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will receive $5.9 billion, a slight increase of $234 million above FY 2017 level, with the funding prioritized for National Weather Service ($1 billion), fisheries operations ($883 million), weather research, and ocean exploration.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $20.7 billion, $1.1 billion above the FY 2017 level. This includes $6.2 billion (+$457 million) for NASA Science programs and $4.8 billion (+$466 million) for exploration programs. Funding for the earth science programs will remain flat at 2017 levels.

The Smithsonian Institution will receive $1 billion in funding, an increase of $178 million, allowing all on-going operations to continue.

HR 1892: Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Congress approved a two-year budget plan on February 9 that would increase authorizations for federal spending. The agreement passed in the Senate (71-28) and House (240-186) and was signed into law by President Trump. The bipartisan agreement raised the caps on defense and nondefense discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years, with nondefense discretionary spending – the biggest source of research funding – getting a $63 billion boost in FY 2018 and an additional $68 billion in FY 2019.

Almost all agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are funded under the discretionary budget might now be able to receive modest budget increases if Congress so chooses to appropriate additional funding.

Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee said, “We are not handing these increases out uniformly and some areas will get cuts, it’s not like everyone is going to be spared by this.”

Senate lawmakers have proposed a $2 billion increase in the NIH budget for FY 2018, $1 billion more than the level proposed by the House. The new agreement tags a $2 billion increase in NIH’s budget over two years. The agency would get another $500 million from the 21st Century Cures Act in 2018.

NSF might also receive a bump in funding from the deal. The House had earlier proposed to keep NSF’s budget flat in 2018. However, Representative John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science that funds NSF, indicated that he would consider increasing the budget if the spending caps were raised.

Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA), chairman of the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee, indicated that many EPA grant programs would get a “strong look” for increased funds. These might include State and Tribal Assistance grants, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act grants and Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants. He also expressed concern about capital spending accounts being severely cut in recent years to help cover operating costs and indicated interest in raising capital funding for overdue Interior Department projects.

There is bipartisan support in the House for restoring some of the funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy projects on the Energy and Water spending bill. Senate appropriators would like to see an 8 percent increase in the agency’s annual budget.

Infrastructure programs in rural water, wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, and surface transportation could receive an increase of about $20 billion over two years. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, stated that the additional funds would be appropriated to these programs later.