Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, May 24, 2018

House Appropriations Committee Approves Funding for Science Agencies; Senate Appropriators Release Schedule and Begin Consideration of FY 2019 Bills; NIH Receives Bipartisan Support at Senate Hearing

The House Appropriations Committee made additional progress last week on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget, approving the bills that fund agriculture research, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC). All three agencies were provided with increases above their FY 2018 levels.

In a press release, full committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) highlighted the additional funding for research that was included in the measure funding NSF. Commenting on the Energy and Water bill, subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the legislation supports “infrastructure projects and strategic research and development that will increase U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.”

In addition to approving the spending legislation, the House Appropriations Committee welcomed a new member, John Rutherford (R-NJ), replacing Charlie Dent (R-PA), who retired April 30. Dent’s departure also caused leadership changes for several subcommittees including the one that funds the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical and Prosthetic Research program. John Carter (R-TX) is the new chairman of the Military Construction/VA Subcommittee, previously led by Dent.

Senate appropriators officially began consideration of the 2019 funding legislation as well. Last week, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released a schedule of anticipated subcommittee activity for the next month.

Bills funding the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and DOE SC were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee May 17. Like their House counterparts, the Senate recommended funding increases for AFRI ($405 million) and DOE SC ($6.65 billion). Following the vote, ranking Agriculture Subcommittee member Jeff Merkley (D-OR) noted, “The bill also protects conservation and agriculture research programs that help our farmers and ranchers continue to be the most productive and efficient in the world.”

Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was even more enthusiastic about the significant increase proposed for DOE SC, stating, “I would tell President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget that science, research and innovation is what made America first, and I recommend that he add science, research and innovation to his ‘America First’ agenda.”

Senate Appropriations Committee approval of the VA research measure is anticipated the week of June 4, followed by a vote on the NSF funding bill sometime June 11-15. The Senate’s recommended budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expected the week of June 25.

An early indication of the Senate’s support for biomedical research came during a May 17 Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee (LHHS) hearing on the FY 2019 NIH budget request. Opening the session, Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) mentioned the subcommittee’s bipartisan commitment to NIH and added that it would continue. NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, received praise for his agency leadership as he addressed questions related to research on opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. LHHS Subcommittee ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Collins about the timeline for implementing the strategic plan for data science and expressed concern that NIH still has not hired a Chief Data Strategist.

The hearing ended on a positive note with Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) remarking that he frequently uses NIH funding as an example of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars when questions about federal spending come up at town hall meetings in his state.

Following recent appropriations committee action, here is the FY 2019 status for federal research agencies:

Agency/Program FY 2019 House



FY 2019 Senate Recommendation
AFRI $415 million


(+$15 million)

$405 million


(+$5 million)

DOE SC $6.6 billion


(+$340 million)

$6.65 million


(+$390 million)

NSF $8.2 billion


(+$408 million)

VA Medical and Prosthetic Research $732 million


(+$10 million)