Washington and Social Science: Might a Wall Shutdown Delay NSF Budget?


The House and Senate reconvened on November 13.  In November, the House approved the Manage Our Wolves Act. The Senate cleared for the president’s signature legislation related to the White Mountain Apache Tribe Settlement Fund, tabled a resolution disapproving proposed arms exports to Bahrain, and confirmed the deputy secretary of commerce and a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System.  The Senate also voted to discharge a resolution to direct the removal of U.S. armed forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.

Government Shutdown Looms Over Wall Funding Debate

Prior to the fiscal year 2019 deadline on September 30, Congress enacted several appropriations packages, including the Defense/Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Act. However, seven appropriations packages remain in limbo, and the agencies covered under these bills are operating under a continuing resolution that will expire on December 7. If Congress does not act to approve these bills or pass another continuing resolution before midnight on December 7, these agencies – including the National Science Foundation (NSF) – will experience a government shutdown.

The primary obstacle to enacting the seven remaining appropriations bills is a dispute over the amount of funding that should be appropriated for the President’s proposed border wall. The president indicated that he would veto the fiscal year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Act if it does not include $5 billion for the border wall (the most recent version approved by the Senate includes the president’s original budget request of $1.6 billion for the wall).

Social Science news bulletinAt this juncture, it is unclear if the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Act, which funds NSF, will be entangled in the wall funding dispute.  Congress may try to approve several “minibus” packages, and the CJS bill may move in a package that is separate from the one that will include the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Congress is also reportedly close to agreeing to another short-term continuing resolution to buy one or two more weeks to resolve differences and prevent a government shutdown.

House and Senate negotiators have reportedly resolved the differences between the House and Senate versions of the CJS bill, and an increase is likely for NSF if the package can be enacted into law. Significant language is also included in the Senate bill protecting funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Science Research Directorate at NSF.

President Appoints Five New Members to National Science Board

On November 5, President Trump announced five new appointments to the National Science Board, the governing board of the NSF. The president also renewed the terms of Geraldine Richmond and former Board Chair Maria Zuber.

The five new members and their credentials are briefly described below:

  • Alan Stern is a major figure in planetary science and a champion of new commercial activities in space. Most recently, Stern worked at the Southwest Research Institute, a non-profit research and development contractor based in San Antonio, Texas. He has also worked in the commercial space sector, including with Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and his own entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Suresh Garimella is a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University and has been the university’s executive vice president for research and partnerships since 2014. He is the founder and director of the Cooling Technologies Research Center at Purdue, which is supported through NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program.
  • Steven Leath has been president of Auburn University since 2017 and before that had been president of Iowa State University since 2011. Previously, he was vice president for research and sponsored programs for the University of North Carolina System. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service from 1985 to 2000 and the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service at North Carolina State University from 2001 to 2007.
  • Stephen Willard has been the CEO of Cellphire, a company founded from support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a method of stabilizing platelets for long-term storage for later therapeutic and diagnostic use. Previously, Willard held a series of executive positions with Flamel Technologies, a France-based pharmaceutical firm, including as CEO and board chair.
  • Maureen Condic holds a faculty position in neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah. Much of Condic’s work has focused on human neurological development and stem cells derived from amniotic fluid. A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, she is an opponent of abortion and embryonic stem cell research, and she testified before Congress in 2013 on the ability of fetuses to experience pain during their early developmental stages.

In the News…

“Americans just set a turnout record for the midterms, voting at the highest rate since 1914. This explains why” | Washington Post (Monkey Cage), November 20

“How Venezuela’s economic crisis is undermining social science research — about everything” | Washington Post (Monkey Cage), November 7

Upcoming Hearings and Briefings

Advisory Committee Meeting of the NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Research Directorate

December 6-7

National Science Foundation, Room E2030, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 223134

RSVP:  lmjackso@nsf.gov

“From the Color of Birds to Nanomaterials and New Technology” | Sponsored by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

December 4, noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern

G-11 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

RSVP: pxo@ams.org

WEBINAR: “Questionable:  Why an Untested Citizenship Question Threatens the 2020 Census” | Sponsored by the Population Association of America

December 5, 4-5 p.m. Eastern

Register:  https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5678099442746359042

Late Night Humor

Stephen Colbert: “According to Pew Research, Americans are more divided along party lines than ever. So I would avoid controversial subjects like politics, religion, sports, movies and how much voter I.D. you need to buy cereal.”

Jimmy Fallon: “Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I saw that a record 30 million Americans are flying this year. When the airlines heard that, they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see about that.’ “

Jimmy Fallon: “And if Trump wasn’t already depressed enough, today Fox News said that they support CNN in their lawsuit against him. Trump was so mad that today he told Sean Hannity to come over and pick up his CDs. He’s like, ‘I’m keeping Hootie and The Blowfish. Get out! I don’t miss you. Yes, I do.'”

Luke Burbank: “In our system, we vote people out of office, but let them stay in power for two months and we just trust them. But if you get fired from Quiznos, that’s your last day. They don’t wan’t you stealing lunch meat. In this case, the lunch meat is democracy.”


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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