Kevin is the Public Policy Director for American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). Before joining the ASCB, Kevin served as Legislative Director for Congressman Bob Weygand (D-RI). Before joining Congressman Weygand's staff, Kevin worked for Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). Kevin is a graduate of the Catholic University of America.
Making sausage and making legislation are not spectator sports but someone has to keep an eye on what's going into the mix. A case in point is the release by the Senate Appropriations Committee last Friday of its version of the bill that will fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for FY15. At first glance, the bill looks like typical Capitol Hill sausage. But look closer. Tucked deep inside the bill are changes that, if they become law, will help NIH scientists attend scientific meetings and reverse a case of unintended consequences. What you are looking at is a big victory for science, for researchers, and for ASCB. Humanity may also benefit.
It began as a quiet Friday on Capitol Hill. May 30 found many members of the Senate back home for a long weekend, meeting with constituents. The House of Representatives had been in session until almost 2:00 am the night before, voting on funding for the departments of Commerce and Justice plus other agencies including the NSF. But then a contingent of ASCB Councilors and leaders arrived. Things soon grew much livelier.
When it comes to policy making in Washington, DC, what does not happen is sometimes as important as what does. Such was the case last month when the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which is intended to increase the accountability and transparency of federal spending. Absent from the bill were severe restrictions on the ability of federal scientists to participate in scientific meetings. The ASCB played a key role in dodging this bullet.
Consider it progress but many in Congress are coming around to the idea that the current system for funding the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal science programs isn't working. Getting everyone on the Hill to agree what should be done to protect research funding is another matter. Now, one senator has come up with a daring new idea on how to shelter biomedical research funding from the budgetary hurricanes blowing through both chambers.
2013 will always be known as the year of sequestration. The inability of Congress to do its job resulted in almost $2 billion in combined cuts to the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). But there was a bright side to sequestration. The 16-day shutdown of the federal government and the bad press it generated finally forced Congress to do something it had not done in years – pass a budget for the federal government.
"Mine!" being among the favorite words of five-year-olds, their parents find themselves remonstrating, over and over "You can't always have things your way." Apparently, this is a lesson lost on most members of Congress.
Federal scientists, unpack your bags. That's the message from Congress, which for a second time in a matter of weeks passed a bill that would severely limit the ability of federal scientists to attend scientific meetings.
Two days after the government's 16-day closure came to an end, the NIH announced that it would delay the final approval of grant applications submitted in fall 2013 until spring 2014. Two days after that, the NIH changed its mind again, announcing that it would "now reschedule most of the 200+ missed peer review meetings so that most applications are able to be considered at January 2014 Council meetings."
In a move that will reverberate through the NIH extramural community, the NIH announced Friday afternoon how they intend to deal with the massive number of grant applications that were submitted in the days before and during the 16-day government shutdown.
At 12:25 am this morning, President Obama signed legislation ending the 2013 federal fiscal standoff and opening the government after a 16-day shutdown. Minutes later, the Office of Personnel Management sent out an email notifying federal employees that they "are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day."