Senate Appropriations Panel Submits Budget for Science Agency

Although the presidential election sucked all the available oxygen out of America’s body politic, the business of running the government is returning slowly and Tuesday, the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee released the text of its budget for federal commerce, justice and science (CJS) agencies, including the National Science Foundation. Committee members called for allocating $8.478 billion for NSF, which is $200 million more than the foundation received this year but about $70 million less than the $8.55 billion that the House of Representatives recommended in its appropriations bill released four months ago. All told, the Senate appropriations bill comes to $71.1 billion; the House version came to $71.5 billion.

The bill must still pass the full Senate, and any final legislation would need to reconcile the two amounts, as well as other outstanding differences in the omnibus spending bill. That legislation then must be signed by the president. The CJS bill is one of 12 such omnibus funding bills that make up the entire U.S. government budget; the Senate committee released the text all of them on Tuesday.

As the Consortium of Social Science Associations noted in its analysis of the Senate legislation – available via PDF here — since appropriations legislation constitutionally arises in the House, “Senators are not expected to take up the bills on the Senate floor; rather, their bills are meant as a jumping off point for negotiations with the House on a final deal.”

The White House request for the NSF would have reduced the NSF budget by $365 million compared to 2020 fiscal year, so both chambers of Congress are asking for more than the agency itself officially requested. The American social science community watches the NSF budget closely, for while it is by no means the only agency that funds social and behavioral science research, it is the largest source of research funding for university social and behavioral science in the United States.

It’s worth noting that this is the request for the 2021 fiscal year, which began on October 1. The U.S. government has been running on a continuing resolution, a resolution which expires on December 11. Despite the lack of action, the Trump administration has begun preparing a budget for 2022, even though this administration’s advisory proposal – already the most notional in modern history – will have no standing.

A lengthy explanatory report accompanied both the House and Senate appropriations bill, and while the House document specifically notes its support for the NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Science Directorate, the Senate document does not make specific mention of social and behavioral science in any form.

For more on the other areas of the social science enterprise affected by the CJS bill, such as the National Institutes of Health or the Bureau of Economic Analysis, please examine the COSSA analysis here.

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