Scientists, here is a badly kept secret: federal advocacy is hard. You know how difficult the budget climate is, how inflation keeps eroding the purchasing power of science funding at NIH and NSF. And you’ve been reading this blog, so you know why the budget climate is difficult. It’s because Congress passed the Budget Control Act in 2011 that contained ten years’ worth of binding spending caps – so without separate legislation, Congress can’t approve additional spending, even if federal needs grow.
And on top of those caps is sequestration, another spending cut meant to encourage congressional factions to work together on a deficit reduction package. That encouragement didn’t work too well, so additional cuts on top of the spending caps are expected this year unless Congress can pass a bill, like the Ryan-Murray bill in 2013, that buys off the cuts with new revenue.
Some members of Congress don’t want to raise any taxes or reduce any federal benefits to raise more revenue, and some members don’t want additional budget cuts. And the twain isn’t meeting. Enacting a budget, one of the primary jobs of Congress, appears to be the job that can’t be done, at least not with the current cast of characters in the current climate with current revenues. There are big forces at work: presidential politics, the shrinking number of moderate members of Congress, and emergence of the Freedom Caucus.
So what can a constituent do in the face of these big forces? You can be the voice of reason when reason is lacking in Washington. You can repeat what many members of Congress know: the legislative process isn’t working, and critical needs are not being met. There are lots of straws on the camel’s back now, and change will come. How can we be so confident? Because change has happened already.
In 2013 many members of Congress were pleased with sequestration—not any more. We seldom hear sequestration praised any longer. Many members want to spend more on defense and are frustrated that half the spending cuts of sequestration target defense programs. Congressional appropriators are frustrated that their work is ignored because the separate spending bills can’t garner a majority of votes to pass. This year the President has threatened to veto any spending bill that doesn’t lift sequestration. Pressure for change IS BUILDING and your voice can add to that pressure.
The Science Government Relations Office will soon ask American Psychological Association members to contact their federal representatives and urge them to support federal research by raising the budget caps and ending sequestration. We hope YOU will send those emails to your members of Congress. Keep pushing. Change is coming.