House Passes FY16 NSF, Census, Justice Spending Bill

After two days of debate and consideration of dozens of amendments, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill this evening on June 4 by a vote of 242 to 183. Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill with 10 Republicans voting against.

As previously reported, this annual spending bill–which provides funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Justice (DOJ) research programs, and the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies–includes very troubling provisions impacting social and behavioral science research (see COSSA’s analysis for full details).

There were no amendments offered, positive or negative, to the NSF section of the bill, leaving the section unchanged from the version that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on May 20.

However, several amendments passed impacting the budget of the Census Bureau, including:

  • $100 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs to increase funding for justice assistance grants (Rep. David Reichert, R-WA)
  • $17.3 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs for sex trafficking victims services in DOJ (Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX)
  • $4 million from Current Surveys and Programs to increase DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (Rep. Richard Nugent, R-FL)

In addition, Rep. Poe continued his assault on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) by offering an amendment to make the ACS voluntary; the amendment passed by voice vote, but not before CJS Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) keenly articulated the importance of a mandatory survey.

While no amendments were offered impacting NSF, several Members of Congress took to the House floor to object to problematic report language in the bill that would direct 70 percent of NSF research funding to engineering and physical, biological and computer science, thereby undercutting funding to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate (as well as the Geosciences directorate) (video can be viewed here). Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) (video at 05:17:06) called these cuts to SBE “misguided” and highlighted several examples of social science research that has led to major breakthroughs impacting the health and prosperity of the nation. In addition, Rep. David Price (D-NC) (video at 10:35:39) asked CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) for a commitment to work together to fix this language and preserve NSF’s discretion to decide what grants to fund, to which Culberson expressed his intent to work with the Congressman. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) (video at 04:46:20) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (video at 05:13:13), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also expressed their objection to the NSF language and cuts to Census.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) (video at 05:21:35) took to the floor to defend the NSF language, acknowledging that he worked directly with CJS Subcommittee staff to incorporate it into the committee report. He reiterated his concerns about NSF’s responsibility to be accountable to taxpayers and fund grants that are in the “national interest.”

The next step in the FY 2016 funding of these agencies is Senate consideration of its version of the CJS appropriations bill, which could occur as early as next week with a possible markup in the Senate CJS Subcommittee.

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