September 24, 2020
On Tuesday night, after a long day of partisan disagreement around farm aid, nutrition assistance, and timeline, the House voted 359 to 57 to approve a bipartisan continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open until December 11, 2020.
According to the bill summary, the CR would appropriate funding at levels provided in FY 2020, extend the availability of funding for certain multiyear research grants that were interrupted by COVID-19, and expire on September 30. The updated bill, H.R. 8319, agreed upon by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, includes nutrition assistance in exchange for farmer bailout funding with added accountability.
The CR now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass on Wednesday before being sent to the president, who is expected to sign it into law. It is likely that, as soon as the budget is complete, Members of Congress will head home to their districts to campaign.
The scientific and research communities are still holding out a bit of hope that Congress will pass another COVID-relief bill before the election. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) told the media on Thursday that the House is preparing a $2.2 trillion scaled-back COVID relief package (down from $3.5 trillion in the HEROES Act). Others are predicting that the battle over filling the seat of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has further complicated already strained efforts.
Members of Congress continued to express support for relief funds to federal research agencies. Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter to House leadership, inviting their fellow members of the House of Representatives to sign in support of enacting $3 billion in emergency research relief for the National Science Foundation. In the Senate, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the bipartisan Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (S. 4286). The legislation would authorize $26 billion to support research relief for universities and laboratories disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FABBS has endorsed the RISE Act.