Information about Relevant Policies (115th Congress)

This page will be updated as frequently as possible to reflect the current policies that are relevant to the astronomical science community. If an entry appears out of date or if you know of a policy that is not listed here, then please send the information to the Public Policy staff.


[Updated: 8 October 2018]

The current fiscal year, FY 2019, began on 1 October 2018 with a partial appropriation and a partial continuing resolution (CR), currently set to expire on 6 December 2018. The Department of Energy has a full-year appropriation, but NASA and NSF are among the agencies under the CR. You can find information about the astronomical sciences portions of the House version and Senate version of FY2019 spending on the AAS Policy Blog. The House passed Omnibus 2018 on 22 March 2018 (256-167), link to the Roll Call Vote). The Senate passed Omnibus 2018 on 23 March 2018 (65-32) (link to the Roll Call Vote).

AAS has been communicating our communities funding priorities through coalition sign-on letters and individual AAS members during congressional visits day.

The next step is for the House and Senate to reach an agreement on the final appropriations bills through a process called conference. For details about the usual budget timeline and process, please refer to this explanation of The President's Budget Request Just Dropped. How Did It Get Here? You may also find this video from AAAS on the budget processhelpful. 

Department of Energy's Office of Science Authorization

[Updated: 8 August 2017]

The bill, Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (HR 589), passed the House by a voice vote on 24 January 2017 (press release from House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology). After being introduced in the Senate, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. No markup has been scheduled yet.

The bill would encourage lab-to-market commercialization of energy technologies and authorize research programs within DOE’s Office of Science, including Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities. Research programs specifically included in this bill are Energy Innovation Hubs, programs in the basic energy sciences, advanced scientific computing research (exascale computing), high energy physics, biological and environmental research, fusion energy, and nuclear physics.

On 28 June 2017, a comparable bill was introduced in the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Act (S 1460). S 1460 covers a wider range of topics than HR 589, but it does authorize research programs within DOE's Office of Science.  

H-1B Visa Program (Executive Order)

[Updated: 17 May 2017]

On 18 April 2017, President Trump signed the "Buy American and Hire American" executive order. The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa to the United States for foreign workers in specialty occupations. The executive order directs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security and the Attorney General to "suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries."

No specific timeline for these "suggestions" was given, which means that we do not know when further details about the possible reforms will be made public. There are 4 federal agencies that dictate the rules that govern the H-1B visa program, and because each agency has its own process for reviewing rules and regulations, it's unclear what process the suggested reforms would need to go through prior to implementation. AAS Policy will be monitoring these proposed changes and will update you as information becomes available. Some more information is available on the AAS Policy Blog.

Hiring Freeze (Presidential Memo)

[Updated: 13 April 2017]

On 23 January 2017, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies that orders "a freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch." This meant that no vacant positions could be filled and no new positions could be created, however, staff could be reassigned "to ensure that essential services are not interrupted." It instructed the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to "recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition."

On 12 April 2017, this hiring freeze was lifted, and OMB issued new instructions to agencies (M-17-22, click for PDF). Included in these instructions are that agencies should develop plans to increase the performance of existing employees and decrease the number of employees. This could be done by eliminating, restructuring, or merging activities to align the agency's activities with its core mission and improve overall efficiency. The short-term proposals should "leverage the FY 2018 President's Budget," while longer-term proposals should be ready for the FY 2019 budget submission. The White House is currently seeking input on this reorganization (deadline 12 June 2017).

Immigration (Executive Order)

[Updated: 3 February 2017]

On 27 January 2017, President Trump signed a White House Executive Order (EO) on visas and immigration. This EO is described by the administration as a policy "to protect [United States] citizens," however, it has negative implications for the diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security interests of the US. These implications led the AAS to join with over 150 other professional societies to send a letter to President Trump urging him to rescind this EO.

Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act

[Updated: 6 April 2017]

The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act was introduced in the House (HR 321) by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and in the Senate (S 42) by Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). The bill passed the House on 10 January 2017 and passed favorably out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on 24 January 2017. The full Senate passed the bill by Voice Vote on 16 February 2017. It was signed into law on 28 February 2017.

The bill instructs NASA to "encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the Nation’s space science and exploration efforts" by supporting the NASA GIRLS and NASA BOYSAspire to Inspire, and Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research programs. The bill also calls for NASA to submit a plan that will support current and retired astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators and inspire the next generation of women.

NASA Authorization

[Updated: 17 February 2017]

On 17 February 2017, the Senate unanimously passed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. This bill is a partial authorization of NASA and is nearly identical to the bill of the same name introduced in the 114th Congress. For information about that bill, refer to "The Senate's NASA Transition Authorization Act" and the subsequent updates from October 2016and December 2016.

Open Access

[Updated: 8 August 2017]

On 26 July 2017, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR, HR 3427) was introduced in the House. This legislation would set specific guidelines for scholarly publications, with the goal of improving access to  publicly funded research results. The AAS and others have been working with the Congress to arrive at legislation that achieves their goal while maintaining the integrity of scholarly publications.

Scientific Integrity Act

[Updated: 6 April 2017]

On 7 February 2017, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Scientific Integrity Act (S. 338), a bill "to protect scientific integrity in Federal research and policymaking." The bill, which has 27 Democratic co-sponsors, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. No markup has been scheduled, however, Senator Nelson discussed the bill in his opening remarks at a committee hearing titled “A Look Ahead: Inspector General Recommendations for Improving Federal Agencies.” Refer to AIP FYI Number 18, "Scientific Integrity Bill and NSF Management Challenges Discussed at Senate Hearing," for additional information about the bill and Senator Nelson's remarks. A House version of the bill (HR 1358) was introduced by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) on 2 March 2017, and has 96 Democratic co-sponsors.

Refer to AIP FYI Number 13, "Scientific Integrity Under Scrutiny During Trump's First Week," for some additional background information about scientific integrity policies.

Space Weather Research Act

[Updated: 30 June 2017]

On 12 January 2017, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S. 141), with Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Wicker (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) co-sponsoring. The bill passed favorably out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on 24 January 2017 and passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent on 2 May 2017.

S. 141 is nearly identical to a bill from the 114th Congress. AIP's FYI included information about the previous bill in an article about the government preparing for high-impact, low-probability events. AGU's The Bridge discussed the previous bill in greater detail

On 28 June 2017, Representatives Perlmutter (D-CO), Bridenstine (R-OK), and Johnson (D-TX) introduced a companion bill in the House (HR 3086).

AAS and SPD have endorsed these bills: Senate endorsement letterHouse endorsement letter