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House passes science spending bill

Last week the House of Representatives approved its version of the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill — its first of the year — on a 247-163 vote.

The bill, which covers funding for NSF, NASA, NOAA, NIST, and other agencies, is more generous in some areas than might have been expected, although R&D in most agencies would fall somewhat short of the President's requests.  NSF R&D would receive a $221 million or 3.9% boost over FY 2012 levels, slightly less than the President's request.

Like NSF, NASA R&D would receive a boost above FY 2012 levels of $123 million or 1.3%, with cuts to space exploration more than offset by increases elsewhere. The largest increase in dollars was reserved for science, where the House provided planetary science with more than $200 million more than the request, in an attempt to offset the major cuts the Administration was seeking. Many of the increases the Administration has sought for R&D in the Department of Commerce are also sustained in this bill.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive a substantial R&D boost of nearly 14%, while the NOAA R&D increase (11%) comes in spite of the fact that the overall NOAA budget would be largely flat. The CJS bill now awaits floor action in the Senate, where a version has already been approved in committee.

During the floor debate on the CJS appropriations bill, a number of amendments were considered that directly affect federal R&D.  An amendment (H.AMDT. 1094) introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to prohibit NSF from funding political science research passed by a vote of 218-208.  An amendment (H.AMDT.1088) introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) to cease funding for NSF's Climate Education program passed 238-188.  Also an amendment introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) to discontinue NOAA's National Ocean Policy passed by a vote of 246-174.  However, separate amendments that would have significantly cut the overall R&D budgets at NIST, NSF, and NASA all failed on the House floor.  Finally, an amendment introduced by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to increase NOAA's Operations, Research and Facilities budget by $1.6 million passed by voice vote, which would boost the National Ocean Service. Further, the House passed an amendment that would make the public's participation in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey voluntary, rather than mandatory as before. 

In anticipation of the Flake amendment, AAAS issued a letter to the full House encouraging Members to support NSF's broad R&D portfolio and not to eliminate a specific field of research.  The Association of American Universities issued a statement criticizing passage of the Flake amendment.

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