Washington and Social Science: Bills on Evidence-Based Policy, Peer-Review


The House and Senate cleared the fiscal year 2018 Budget Resolution, paving the way for tax reform legislation. They also cleared a disaster assistance package in response to recent hurricanes. The House also approved the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, the Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act, and the Community Health and Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act. The Senate approved a joint resolution nullifying a rule submitted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding arbitration agreements, and confirmed several Executive and Judicial Branch nominations.

ACA Repeal shelved…now onto tax reform!
After failing to secure a majority of votes to pass a proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), Congressional leaders all but abandoned ACA repeal efforts for the year.

Social Science news bulletinNow Republican House and Senate leaders and the president are focusing on one of their highest legislative priorities of the year: tax reform. On November 2, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, unveiled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), the majority’s proposal to overhaul and simplify the federal tax code, including provisions to eliminate many popular tax deductions (such as deducting state and local taxes). Like any comprehensive proposal to reform the tax code, there are winners and losers under the House Republican plan, and economists are still sorting out how average American middle-income families will fare under the plan. Also, the proposal is expected to cost $1.5 trillion!

During the week of November 6, the Ways and Means Committee began its lengthy markup of the tax bill. The Senate intends to write its own bill, which we can expect to look much different than the House bill.

Senator Paul bill would dramatically change peer review of grants
On October 17, Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, introduced the BASIC Research Act

(S. 1973) to make fundamental changes to the peer review process for federal grant applications. The bill would add to review panels an “expert … in a field unrelated to the research” being proposed, as well as a “taxpayer advocate.” For NSF specifically, the bill would replace the Office of Inspector General with a new Office of the Inspector General and Taxpayer Advocate for Research, to examine random samples of grants to determine “if the research will deliver value to the taxpayer.”

Paul unveiled his bill at an October 18 hearing entitled “Broken Beakers: Federal Support for Research” held by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, which he chairs. In his opening statement, Paul said that he is “concerned the federal government’s system of supporting research is inefficient and incentivizes the wrong things, which leads to bad science and wasted taxpayer dollars.” Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters, D-Michigan, countered by stating that “while certain basic research projects that receive federal funding certainly have silly-sounding titles, further examination may reveal the true scientific merit and potential broader impacts of the work.”

In response, science and higher education associations have expressed strong opposition to the bill. The American Psychological Association stated that “S. 1973 would not improve merit review or enhance the accountability of science to the public, but would introduce dangerous uncertainties into systems that are already highly calibrated to achieve excellence.”

The Paul bill is currently before the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and has no cosponsors. The bill is not likely to move through the legislative process anytime soon.

House panel approves evidence-based policymaking bill
On November 2, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174). Introduced by the Speaker of the House, Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, on October 31, this legislation would implement many of the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which issued its final report on September 7.

A companion measure (S. 2046) was introduced in the Senate on October 31 by Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington. There is a chance that the bill will be attached to the final House-Senate conference report to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The bills seek to establish a more secure, transparent, and efficient data system that will help federal agencies better assess the effectiveness of their programs. It also includes provisions of the OPEN Government Act, which seeks to the maximum extent to make government data open and accessible to the public, while protecting privacy.

FABBS/SAGE Briefing Highlights young researchers
On November 7, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and SAGE Publishing sponsored a briefing that highlighted the work of several young researchers in the brain and behavioral science fields. Attended by approximately 50 congressional staffers, the briefing highlighted recent research on the correlation between environment and genetics in brain and behavior, the use of ergonomics in reducing medical errors, understanding brain signaling association with anxiety and depression, the use of technology to assess inference skills and reading ability in young children, and early risk factors in autism. Each of the researchers also had an opportunity to meet individually with the Senate offices representing their respective home state universities.

In the News…

“Can Social Science Tell Us How Much Gerrymandering Is Too Much” | Chronicle of Higher Education

“What Political Science Can Tell Us About Mass Shootings” | Washington Post (Monkey Cage

“Rand Paul takes a poke at U.S. peer-review panels” | Science

“Study: CEOs Who Invest In Social Responsibility Initiatives Risk Their Jobs” | National Public Radio’s The Hidden Brain

Upcoming Hearings and Briefings

 Tackling the Opioid Epidemic and its Hidden Casualties: Local Health Departments on the Front Lines

3- 4 p.m. November 13

2075 Rayburn House Office Building

For any additional information contact Ian Goldstein igoldstein@naccho.org

Late Night Quotable

 During last night’s 11-inning World Series game, a Dodgers fan got arrested after he jumped into one of the bullpens. Afterwards, the Dodgers admitted if the game had gone one more inning they would have needed him to pitch.

Conan O’Brien, October 26

 Amazon is testing a new service that allows couriers to unlock homes and leave packages inside. Learn more about the new service on a future episode of “Dateline.”

Seth Meyers, October 25

Delta is hiring 1,000 new flight attendants, and it’s a very tough tryout. When pushing the beverage cart, you have to slam into at LEAST 12 passengers’ knees.

Jimmy Fallon, October 24155

Mark Vieth

Mark Vieth is a senior vice president of the Washington government relations firm CRD Associates. Since he joined CRD in 2002, he has specialized in bringing diverse associations, foundations, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders together to advocate for common objectives. Before that, Vieth was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, including serving as chief of staff for then-Congressman Robert A. Borski of Pennsylvania.

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