This story will be updated with future Congressional action.
After months of jockeying and threats, the 11th-hour need to keep the U.S. government funded and therefore operating the day after tomorrow has delivered a National Science Foundation budget allocation that is free of meddling in the social, behavioral and economic sciences.
The NSF budget of $7.344 billion is a small piece of a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill that looks likely to pass both houses of the U.S. Congress. The bill has been dubbed the “cromnibus” because it folds in the continuing resolution , or CR, that has allowed the federal government to limp along, and the 11 separate funding bills for the disparate parts of the U.S. government, hence the ‘omnibus.’
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky, described the bill’s increase in NSF funding as focusing on programs that are seen to help the U.S. economy:
The legislation funds NSF at $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This funding is targeted to programs that help strengthen U.S. innovation and economic competitiveness, including funding for advanced manufacturing science, and for research in cybersecurity and cyber-infrastructure.
The bill went to the House Rules Committee Wednesday, and was on the House floor today. However, the Republican majority in the House has so far delayed a vote on the bill.
The cromnibus has been squeezed into an existing energy bill that has already been approved by the House and Senate, creating the useful fiction of a merely amended bill that allows the spending additions to leap over some inconvenient rules in the Senate. Regardless, another continuing resolution will likely be necessary to get over some timing obstacles that can’t be papered over;e even more likely. today’s delays in the House make that stopgap mov
NSF funding is part of the Commerce, Justice and Science sub-bill, which saw lots of posturing and jockeying over social science research in the summer. In general, arguments to reduce or micromanage social science grants featured the trope that these programs might be nice, but they didn’t power the nation’s economic locomotion. That so-called CJS bill stalled in the general gridlock accompanying all current attempts to legislate in Washington, and now the cromnibus apparently has put that sniping aside in service of the larger goal of not shuttering the entire federal edifice.
Of course, that doesn’t mean little presents — nice and naughty — couldn’t be slipped into the sprawling legislation. So far, not that affect NSF funding or the social sciences appear to have been placed in the bill.
Next year, however, Republicans – from which all the social science funding opponents have been drawn – will control of both houses of Congress, and not just the House of Representatives. This suggests that funding for social, behavioral and economic research may land in the crosshairs again, as Social Science Space columnist Howard Silver has suggested:
Next year has the prospect of more difficulty. Once again, the Republicans will try to restore “regular order” to the appropriations process and try to pass each of the 12 individual spending bills. NSF funding will begin its journey in the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Its new chairman will be Representative John Culberson, R-Texas. Although, he has been a strong supporter of science education and NSF in general, he voted with the majority to defund political science in 2012. … He also voted this year to support Chairman Smith’s amendment to transfer NSF funding so that the social and behavioral sciences got less. The House floor will remain a dangerous place for funding social and behavioral science with similar amendments likely.