For all its many failings, Congress is doing one thing right: It’s repeatedly ignoring President Trump’s requests to drastically cut federal science funding to historic lows, at least for the most part.
Although it’ll take until later this year for the spending bill to be passed or rejected by the House, it has given its approval – as per a vote – for the 2018 federal budget, which takes effect on October 1 of this year. Instead of slashing science funding, it once again boosts it.
The vote, 211-to-198, rejects Trump’s proposal that basic scientific research across the government should be cut by 16.7 percent, reducing the total to $28.9 billion. In fact, lawmakers voted for an increase in research by 2.6 percent, raising it to $35.6 billion.
Much of this increase will go towards health and “defense” funding, and climate change research funding remains, give or take, the same as this year’s.
It’s far from ideal, and the vote brings with it several grim decisions. For example, the government is not allowed to send money to the Green Climate Fund at any point, the Paris agreement-linked initiative that asks wealthier nations to help financially support poorer countries transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and to build climate change defenses.
At the same time, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the largest supplier of federal science grants to researchers, is seeing its budget cut by around 2 percent. This is the sort of behavior that will see China usurp America as the world leader in science by 2019.
Either way, the Senate is working on their own spending bill, and the House and Senate – thanks to an extension of the 2017 budget – have until December 8 to agree on the final, “combined” bill. If not, the government will shut down. Still, if the 2017 federal science budget is anything to go by, and this important vote, science funding will be largely protected from Trump’s draconian cuts.