President Donald Trump signed two spending bill packages into law this month, allocating funding for parts of the federal government through fiscal year (FY) 2019 and providing short-term funding for other agencies at FY 2018 levels until December 7, giving Congress more time to agree upon the final FY 2019 appropriations for those remaining agencies while avoiding a government shutdown before the start of the fiscal year on October 1.
By the end of August, the Senate passed nine of their 12 appropriations bills, while the House – on recess in August – passed six. The bills passed by both chambers include funding for the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Energy, but only the Senate voted on spending for the Department of Agriculture. The two chambers must conference to negotiate mutually agreeable final language, then pass reconciled versions of the appropriations packages. Neither chamber has yet passed their Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bills.
The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney sent a memorandum on July 31 to heads of executive departments and agencies highlighting the administration's research and development (R&D) priorities and providing guidance to agencies as they formulate their fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget submissions. The memorandum defined eight R&D priority areas and five R&D priority practices. Agency R&D budgets will be incorporated into the President’s annual budget submission to Congress in early February.
In June 2018, the House and Senate consecutively passed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 5895) to make progress on the appropriations process before the fiscal year (FY) 2019 deadline of September 30, 2018. More FY 2019 appropriations bills are slated to be considered in July, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to shorten the Senate’s August recess to proceed with appropriations legislation and nominee confirmation.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved their Commerce, Justice, and Science fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bill. Similar to the House bill, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 (S. 3072) would increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) compared to FY 2018 levels, but decrease funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
In response to President Donald Trump’s request to terminate direct federal funding to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, lawmakers in the House and Senate held several hearings beginning in May and June 2018 to discuss the future of the ISS. The Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness held the first in a series of two hearings on May 16, and the second on June 6. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology also held a hearing to discuss the ISS on May 17.
Both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved their fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills to fund the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies. The House bill (H.R. 6147) directs $1.23 billion to DOI, an increase of $64.5 million compared to FY 2018 enacted levels, and the Senate bill (S. 3073) provides an increase of $30 million to DOI for a total of $1.20 billion.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is poised to receive a significant increase in funding for FY 2019, as both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations rejected the administration’s proposed cut of $4 billion. The House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 would increase DOE funding by $925 million for a total budget of $35.5 billion, while the Senate’s version of the bill would provide a slightly lower total for DOE at $35.0 billion.
On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the chamber’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 5952). The bill would provide $8.2 billion for NSF, which is $407.5 million more than the FY 2018 enacted amount; $5.2 billion for NOAA, a $750 million reduction from last year; $21.6 billion for NASA, an increase of $840 million; and $985 million for NIST, a decrease of $214 million.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt fielded an array of questions at back-to-back congressional hearings, which were originally intended to discuss the EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request of $6.15 billion, a $1.9 billion or 24 percent reduction from FY 2018 enacted levels. The hearings were peppered with questions regarding ethics issues, policy concerns, and parochial projects.