March 2, 2017

Amidst Cabinet Nominations, Congress Considers Science Legislation 

Posted by Timia Crisp

The 115th Congress is now in full swing. With the flurry of cabinet nominations being considered, it’s easy to miss the legislation that has been or is being considered in Congress. In this blog post, we will give you an overview of some of the science-related legislation that is up for consideration or has recently been passed.

  • Department of Energy Research & Innovation Act (H.R. 589)Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The bill provides guidance to DOE’s Office of Science and its 17 national laboratories. A product of the unsuccessful bicameral negotiations over the larger energy bill, H.R. 589 garnered bipartisan support as a standalone bill, passing the House in late January on voice vote.
    • Outlook: While the House has passed this bill with bipartisan support, it is not clear whether the Senate will take up H.R. 589.
  • Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S.141)—Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI): The Space Weather bill would establish a national, coordinated plan to understand the impacts of space weather events and also direct federal agencies to develop technology to better forecast and mitigate threats posed by space weather events. The bill, which AGU endorsed, was introduced last Congress.
    • Outlook: While the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology has approved the bill and sent it to the Senate Floor for consideration, the Senate has not held a vote on the bill, likely due to the current focus on the budget and cabinet nominations.
  • Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Act (H.R. 321)—Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA): The bill directs NASA to encourage women and girls to study STEM and pursue careers in aerospace by developing a plan to engage current and retired astronauts, scientists, and engineers to engage with K-12 female STEM students.
    • Outlook: This bill became law when it was signed by President Trump on 28 February 2017.
  • Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (H.R. 353) Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK): The bill, if signed into law, would mark the first major update to NOAA’s weather research and forecasting policy in nearly a decade. The bill, as passed by the House, reauthorizes the U.S. Weather Research Program, authorizes funds to invest in seasonal weather forecasting, promotes coordination between federal agencies regarding weather forecasting research and operations, and directs NOAA to complete the COSMIC-2 microsatellite program and consult with the National Academies of Science in identifying future satellite needs.
    • Outlook: The bill passed the House without objection in early January. While the Senate has not indicated whether it will consider the bill, it had bi-partisan support last Congress.
  • Scientific Integrity Act (S.338) Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL): This bill contains language that would require the Directors of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish policies to protect scientists and the scientific endeavor, including preventing the intentional and unintentional tampering of data and safeguarding open communication of scientific findings from federally funded research. AGU stands committed to scientific integrity and has a position statement regarding the free and open communication of scientific findings.
    • Outlook: The House is working on a comparable version of this bill, which is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. The Senate version, however, lacks Republican co-sponsors, which may hinder its chances of being considered.

As the cabinet nominations wrap up and the budget process comes to a head, we can expect more legislation to be introduced and considered. To stay up to date on the latest in science policy and legislation, consider signing up for our Science Policy Alerts and keep an eye out for updates to our new Latest News section of our website.