House of Representatives Passes Research Funding Bills

On July 29, the House of Representatives passed a seven-bill appropriations package on a strict party-line vote, with all Democrats supporting the measure which includes key agencies supporting behavioral science: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation, was held up due to intra-party disagreements largely relating to police expenditures.

The Senate has moved more slowly, advancing only three of twelve appropriations bills out of committee so far. Both chambers will have to pass spending bills, and negotiate any differences, before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. In recent years, Members of Congress have been unable to come to agreement, instead passing stopgap continuing resolutions through the end of the calendar year to avoid shutting down the government.

This year brings additional complications to the budget process. Government funding runs out September 30. However, the Treasury is also likely to reach the debt limit in October or November and be unable to meet its financial obligations, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Therefore, Congress must pass not only appropriations measures by the end of September, but also lift or suspend the nation’s debt ceiling. It is unclear how this process will unfold, with significant partisan differences over the best approach.

Nonetheless, the House-passed spending bills include significant increases to federal research funding for our sciences and show clear and consistent Congressional enthusiasm for growing federal research investments. The House package included the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, which lays out funding levels for NIH and IES.

Institute of Education Sciences

The legislation included a $120 million increase for the Institute of Education Sciences and, importantly, a $50 million increase for program administration expenditures which cover staffing. IES leadership has emphasized that additional staff are necessary to maximize increased research investments.

National Institutes of Health

The bill would also provide a 6.5 billion increase at the National Institutes of Health, with funding increases across every Institute. The legislation added important provisions, securing a $20 million increase to the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR), and emphasizing the importance of behavioral health, cognitive development, and cognition of young children within the portfolio of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Also added, was language stressing the importance of including behavioral scientists at every level of the Department of Health and Human Services’ response to COVID-19 and future pandemic preparedness efforts.

Additionally, the bill contained language addressing animal research at NIH that may be of interest to FABBS members. Congress requested:

  • The creation of a Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing to develop and promote non-animal alternatives in research and plan for the reduction of animal use in federal research and testing.
  • Increased reporting, showing an annual count of animals bred for and used in research.
  • The establishment of an NIH panel to investigate and make recommendations regarding incentives for more quickly and effectively moving NIH research away from methods that rely on animals.