Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, March 14, 2019

White House Releases FY 2020 Budget Proposal; Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Vaccines; House Committee Receives Advice about Maintaining American Scientific Leadership

On March 11, the White House unveiled a summary of its fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request, which adheres to the Budget Control Act spending caps. Under the proposal, non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by approximately $54 billion (9 percent) compared with 2019.

If enacted, the proposed budget would cut a number of science funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Under the proposal, the NIH budget would fall by nearly $5 billion to approximately $34.4 billion, while NSF would see its budget decrease by approximately $1 billion to $7.1 billion. Similarly, the Department of Energy Office of Science Budget would decrease to $5.5 billion (a cut of $1 billion), and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Research Program would decrease to $762 million (a $17 million cut).

In contrast, the administration is proposing to fund the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at United States Department of Agriculture at $500 million, an increase of $85 million above FY 2019.

As in previous years, the administration’s proposal is likely to be ignored by House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they begin drafting spending bills. In her press statement, House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated that the President’s budget “has no chance of garnering the bipartisan support to become law.” Similarly, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) was quoted by Bloomberg Government as stating “I’ve never seen a president’s budget enacted into law. . . It’s a suggestion.”

In other news, House and Senate committees have held hearings on various scientific topics. On March 5, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing entitled “Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks.” Witnesses included public health experts and patient advocates who highlighted the critical role that vaccines play in preventing infectious diseases.

On March 6, the House Science Committee convened a hearing entitled “Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Science and Technology.” The Committee heard testimony from Marcia McNutt, PhD, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Patrick Gallagher, PhD, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh; and Mehmood Khan, MD, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at PepsiCo. All three witnesses emphasized the importance of federal investments in research, training the next generation of scientists and engineers, and creating a welcoming environment for international students and scholars.