The results of the November 6, 2018 midterm elections have the potential to bring about several R&D-relevant changes in Congress. Among more than 100 new members, nearly a dozen have STEM backgrounds. The stakes for science R&D will certainly be high for the new Congress. Among the many issues that must be addressed: the return of “sequestration” budget caps in 2020, which could bring a cut of $54 billion to non-defense discretionary spending, the January 2020 reinstatement – after two consecutive, two-year suspensions – of the medical device excise tax, and erosion of our nation’s global R&D leadership and competitiveness as nations like China continue to ramp up their R&D investment and assign a top priority to R&D.
Before the 116th Congress is sworn in, the 115th Congress still has unfinished business, including the need to complete the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) appropriations process. The continuing resolution (CR) that provides flat funding for critical science-focused agencies such as FDA and NSF is set to expire on December 7. As of press time, it is likely Congress will pass another CR that provides a bit more time for Congress to negotiate the final bills, but after that brief reprieve a partial government shutdown is possible. See the chart on page 4 for FY19 funding details.
Another pending issue for the 115th Congress is the nomination of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be the next director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Though he has been approved by the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Releated Agencies Committee and has received widespread support from the scientific community, Dr. Droegemeier’s nomination has yet to receive a vote by the full Senate.
In November, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they were examining whether the department, and agencies under its jurisdiction, would be permitted to continue funding fetal tissue research. HHS has held a series of listening sessions lead by Deputy Secretary Brett Giroir, but has not announced next steps.
On November 20, Research!America released its report on U.S. Investments in Medical and Health Research and Development, 2013-2017. As the report shows, the U.S. has seen strong growth across sectors. However, U.S. investment continues to be dwarfed by the costs, both qualitative and quantitative, of disease.