Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, January 13, 2022
Build Back Better Act Stalls 

President Biden’s social spending plan of over $2 trillion, also known as the Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376), stalled in the Senate in December—even after direct negotiations between the president and Sen. Joe Machin (D-WV) took place. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated that as early as January, the Senate will consider the Build Back Better Act, so that every member has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor. Previously, the bill passed in the House 220–213, where all but one Democrat voted for the bill and all Republicans voted against it. Hill watchers continue to be hopeful for some forward movement on the Build Back Better Act. However, with the start of the second session of the 117th Congress, voting rights legislation is taking precedence.

Senate Democrats released text of various parts of the Build Back Better Act in late December along with Congressional Budget Office scores. In the Senate text, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $85 million; the National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive nearly $3 billion for its core research, TIPS (Technology, Innovation, and Partnership) Directorate, and research infrastructure; the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would receive $866 million for research and development, with an additional $4.12 billion for lab infrastructure (there was nothing in the House version); and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $285 million. 
Agency House Senate
NIH $85 million $85 million ($10 million until expended for research in developmental delays of children and $75 million research capacity) 
NSF (core research; TIPS; and research infrastructure) $3.5 billion ($1.52 billion for  new TIPS Directorate) $2.99 billion ($1.52 billion for  new TIPS Directorate). Decrease due to $7 million drop in funding for research awards from $675 million to $668 million from House version
NSF Inspector General $7 million is to remain available until September 30, 2030, for administrative expenses of the Inspector General relating to oversight of funds provided to the NSF. $7 million is to remain available until September 30, 2030, for administrative expenses of the Inspector General relating to oversight of funds provided to the NSF.
DOE Office of Science Research and Development (R&D)  $985 million $866 million ($119 million decrease)
AFRI $210 million $285 million (+$75 million)

Meanwhile, other 2022 agenda items will need attention soon, including government funding where full agreement on how much to spend in total has still not been reached for fiscal year 2022. Following a recent action alert, FASEB researchers continue to advocate for this, as well as FASEB in its latest letter to appropriators. Currently, the government is only funded until February 18. 

Another agenda item is legislation dealing with U.S. competition with China where the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan measure (S.1260) in June to reauthorize federal science and research programs and provide $52 billion for the semiconductor industry. This effort stalled in the House as it took its own approach, passing the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, H.R.2225, and the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act, H.R.3593, to bolster U.S. competitiveness.  A decision was made that the chambers would produce a conference bill as their next step to finalize the competing legislation.

The 2022 mid-term elections in November provide further impetus to reach agreement on various bills and bring wins back to the congressional districts.