Republicans control both houses of Congress, but they don’t speak with one voice when it comes to funding research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and other agencies. That difference became clear last week after the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a 2016 spending bill that does not call for the steep cuts to climate and social science programs approved a week earlier by the House of Representatives. And although the House would give NSF a bit more money, the Senate version hews closer to the balanced portfolio that most scientists prefer.
In the House, key lawmakers have made headway with the notion that the social sciences and climate research contribute less to the nation than “pure” disciplines, such as physics, biology, engineering, and computing. That worldview is reflected in a $51 billion spending bill approved by the House on 4 June to fund NSF, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several other federal agencies.
At NOAA, for example, the so-called CJS (Commerce, Justice, and Science) bill would cut climate research programs by $30 million, or 19% below current levels, and $60 million below the president’s request. At NASA, it would keep overall science spending flat, but cut earth science spending by $90 million, or 5%, a level $264 million less than the president’s request. At the same time, the House would boost NASA’s planetary science programs $216 million above the president’s request, including a big hike for a proposed mission to the jovian moon Europa.
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