Washington and Social Science: The Shutdown and the Damage Done


In January, the 116th Congress was sworn in for its first session.  After a month-long partial government shutdown, Congress enacted a continuing resolution to keep federal government agencies funded until February 15. Congress also enacted the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act to provide for retroactive pay for federal employees affected by the government shutdown. The House approved several “mini-bus” appropriations bills and other spending bills to fully fund through September 30 the agencies affected by the partial government shutdown, but these were not taken up in the Senate. The House also approved a $12 billion disaster assistance supplemental appropriations bill and the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act. The Senate also approved an amendment to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act that calls for President Trump to refrain from drawing down troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Federal Government Open For Business… At Least Until February 15

After a month-long partial government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018, congressional leaders reached a deal with President Trump to re-open the government temporarily for three weeks. Once the deal was announced, the House and Senate on January 25 quickly enacted a continuing resolution to fund, until February 15, the federal agencies impacted by the shutdown. Agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) were able to call their employees back to work the following Monday, January 28, and federal workers will soon be able to collect back-pay for the period covered by the shutdown.

Social Science news bulletin

Despite the deal to temporarily re-open the federal government, no progress has been made over the border wall funding stalemate. The president has indicated that another shutdown will happen if Congress does not provide the full $5.7 billion that he is requesting for the wall. He may also declare a “national emergency” and redirect funding from exiting appropriated accounts within the Department of Defense (including disaster assistance funds for Puerto Rico and Texas) to begin construction of the border wall.

Even if Congress and the president succeed in breaking the logjam and approve the remaining fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills, the new Congress will find itself significantly behind schedule in the fiscal year 2020 budget and appropriations cycle. The president’s budget, which is usually delivered to Congress in early February, will likely be delayed by a month, and perhaps longer if another partial shutdown occurs on February 16. House and Senate appropriations committees typically set deadlines for requests by this time in the year, but that process is not even close to starting because of the shutdown.

Congress must approve all 12 of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills before the end of fiscal year 2019, which is September 30, 2019… only eight months away!

Committee Rosters Set for 116th Congress

House and Senate Democratic and Republican Leadership completed the appointment of members to various Congressional Committees. Here are a list of the members of the key committees and subcommittees dealing with the NSF:

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science

Democrats

José Serrano, New York, Chairman                   

Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania

Grace Meng, New York

Brenda Lawrence, Michigan

Charlie Crist, Florida

Ed Case, Hawaii

Marcy Kaptur, Ohio

Republicans

Robert Aderholt, Alabama, Ranking Member

Martha Roby, Alabama

Steve Palazzo, Mississippi

Tom Graves, Georgia

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science

Republicans

Jerry Moran, Kansas, Chairman 

Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska

Susan Collins, Maine

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

John Boozman, Arkansas

Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia

John Kennedy, Louisiana

Marco Rubio, Florida

Democrats

Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, Ranking Member

Patrick Leahy, Vermont

Dianne Feinstein, California

Jack Reed, Rhode Island

Christopher Coons, Delaware

Brian Schatz, Hawaii

Joe Manchin, West Virginia

Chris Van Hollen, Maryland

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Democrats

Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas, Chair 

Zoe Lofgren, California

Dan Lipinski* , Illinois

Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon

Ami Bera, California

Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania

Lizzie Fletcher, Texas

Haley Stevens*, Michigan

Kendra Horn, Oklahoma

Mikie Sherrill*, New Jersey

Brad Sherman*, California

Steve Cohen*, Tennessee

Jerry McNerney, California

Ed Perlmutter, Colorado

Paul Tonko*, New York 

Bill Foster*, Illinois

Don Beyer, Virginia

Charlie Crist, Florida

Sean Casten, Illinois

Katie Hill, California

Ben McAdams*, Utah

Jennifer Wexton. Virginia

Republicans

Frank Lucas, Oklahoma, Ranking Member

Mo Brooks, Alabama

Bill Posey, Florida

Randy Weber, Texas

Brian Babin, Texas

Andy Biggs, Arizona

Roger Marshall, Kansas

Neal Dunn, Florida

Ralph Norman, South Carolina

Michael Cloud, Texas

Troy Balderson, Ohio

Pete Olson, Texas

Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio

Michael Waltz, Florida

Jim Baird, Indiana

Two vacancies

* Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, chaired by Representative Haley Stevens (D-MI).  Republican Subcommittee appointments have not yet been made.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Republicans

Roger Wicker, Mississippi, Chairman

John Thune, South Dakota

Roy Blunt, Missouri

Ted Cruz*, Texas

Deb Fischer, Nebraska

Jerry Moran, Kansas

Dan Sullivan*, Arkansas

Cory Gardner*, Colorado

Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee

Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia

Mike Lee, Utah

Ron Johnson*, Wisconsin

Todd Young, Indiana

Rick Scott*, Florida

Democrats

Maria Cantwell, Washington, Ranking Member

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota

Richard Blumenthal*, Connecticut

Brian Schatz*, Hawaii

Ed Markey, Massachusetts

Tom Udall, New Mexico

Gary Peters*, Michigan

Tammy Baldwin*, Wisconsin

Tammy Duckworth, Illinois

Jon Tester, Montana

Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona

Jacky Rosen, Nevada

* Members of the Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries and Weather, (Senator Gardner, chair, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, ranking member).

NSF Back in Business, but not “Business As Usual”

On January 28, NSF resumed operations after a month-long shutdown. But as an “Important Notice” issued on January 28 by NSF to the science and engineering community explains, operating under a continuing resolution does not mean “business as usual.” According to the “Resumption of Operations at the National Science Foundation” Important Notice, NSF during this period will focus on “processing the backlog of awards to universities and small businesses, rescheduling merit review panels that were cancelled, funding facilities and renewing oversight of those facilities, and funding graduate student and postdoctoral fellowships.” Long-term vision implementation will begin, but will be difficult to achieve if the agency experiences another shutdown in a few weeks. Additionally, more than 100 review panels—involving 2,000 proposals—were cancelled during the shutdown and require rescheduling.

As NSF’s notice demonstrates, federal agencies aren’t switches that can be turned on and off without major disruption. They function through the hard work of the director, research directorate and division heads, program officers, and other dedicated employees who serve the agency. Some of these individuals may not even return to their jobs after a shutdown of this duration.

Shutdowns also take a personal and human toll on members of the scientific community. As a January 23 letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding to the president and Congress stated, “Senior scientists are questioning how to pay their postdoctoral researchers, and some postdocs and fellows, many of whom are early in their careers, are not getting paid at all. Indeed, the shutdown is not only affecting the overall research enterprise but is taking a personal toll on those who are vital to its success.”

The notice also welcomes Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as the new director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), who was confirmed in the last days of the 115th Congress (2017-2018).  Like NSF, OSTP was closed during the partial shutdown.

In the News…

“Why the shutdown ended — and what to watch for now,” Washington Post (Monkey Cage) | January 26, 2019

“End of U.S. shutdown won’t mean return to business as usual for research agencies,”Science (Jeff Mervis) | January 3, 2019

“Samantha Power to receive 2019 Moynihan Prize in Social Science and Public Policy,”Harvard Law Today | January 24, 2019

“Few open-access journals meet requirements of Plan S, study says,” Science | January 31, 2019

Coalition for National Science Funding Letter regarding the partial government shutdown | January 23, 2019

Late Night Humor

Stephen Colbert: [Referencing the shutdown] “Things have gotten so bad that the IRS has added a new question to the tax form: ‘Would you like $3 of your Federal Tax to go to buying us a sandwich?'”

Seth Meyers: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to the White House today saying she will not allow President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address next week if the government is still shut down. Damn! If Trump really wants a strong wall on the Mexican border, he should build it out of Nancy Pelosi.”


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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