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ASPET Prescribed Policy, March 2021

April 02, 2021
by Tyler Lamb, ASPET’s Sr. Manager of Government Affairs

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Biden Administration

Xavier Becerra Confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services

Earlier this month, former 12-term congressman Xavier Becerra was narrowly confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by a Senate vote of 50-49. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the lone Republican to vote for confirmation. Prior to his nomination for secretary, Becerra was tapped to be the Attorney General for California after now-Vice President Kamala Harris departed the role to run for U.S. Senate. As Attorney General, Becerra led a coalition of states in support of the Affordable Care Act. He also was the driving force behind several high-profile lawsuits targeting Trump administration policies on LGBTQ healthcare issues and immigration restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Becerra is the first Latino to lead the department. As Secretary of HSS, Becerra will have oversight of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. You can view the now completed leadership team for HHS HERE.


ASPET Participates in FASEB Hill Day

On March 9 and 11, FASEB hosted its annual hill day to advocate for increased funding for federal science agencies. This year’s program was completely virtual owing to the closure of the Capitol Hill complex due to COVID-19. Five ASPET members and one member of ASPET’s government affairs staff participated in the program. ASPET members met with members and staff from Alabama, Louisiana, New York, Texas, and Washington. The FY22 “asks” for FASEB’s hill day were:

  • National Institutes of Health: $46.11 billion ($3.2 billion or 7.5%) above FY 2021
  • National Science Foundation: $10 billion ($1.5 billion or 18%) above FY 2021

Though appropriators are working on spending bills as we speak, this year’s appropriations process is expected to kick in off in earnest with the release of President Biden’s FY 2022 budget this month. The budget—typically released in early February—is delayed owing to the transition between administrations.

Keep up to date with Science Policy News at ASPET's Advocacy page


ASPET and Research!America Ask President Biden to Champion the RISE Act

On March 24, ASPET joined with Research!America and other organizations to ask that President Biden champion the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. The bipartisan RISE Act, led by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Fred Upton (R-MI), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) in the House, and Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Gary Peters (D-MI) in the Senate, would provide $25 billion to help restore our nation’s research capacity to its pre-pandemic strength, prevent setbacks against the formidable challenges our nation faces, and further the goal of a robust, diverse, and inclusive STEM workforce. The letter highlights the benefits of investments in science (including increased life expectancy and economic benefits) and notes that our R&D advantage is gradually being eroded by international competitors. Relief for researchers was not included in the most recent COVID-19 stimulus/relief legislation passed earlier this month. You can read the full letter HERE.

ASPET Joins with ASBMB to Support Pandemic Relief for Early-Career Scientists

Last month, ASPET agreed to endorse a policy proposal distributed by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) that asks Congress for pandemic relief for early-career scientists who have had their careers and research disrupted by COVID-19. These supplemental appropriations would prioritize women scientists, underrepresented minorities, and investigators lacking alternative funding sources. To raise awareness of this issue, on March 18 ASPET participated in a Twitter chat led by ASBMB where members of both societies shared stories on how the pandemic has impacted their work. You can read the chat on ASBMB’s Twitter feed beginning with the below tweet (click through for full thread).

Science Workforce

ASPET Endorses the STEM Opportunities Act

On March 1, ASPET formally endorsed H.R. 204, the STEM Opportunities Act. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology committee. The bill would instruct the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to carry out programs and activities to ensure that federal science agencies and institutions of higher education receiving federal research and development funding are fully engaging their entire talent pool. The bill specifically targets underrepresented groups like women, minorities, and rural populations and collects and reports data on why these populations tend to leave STEM careers at higher rates than other students and researchers. You can read the text of the bill HERE. You can read ASPET’s endorsement of the bill HERE.

NIH Issues UNITE RFI to Combat Structural Racism

On March 1, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins announced that NIH has launched an effort to end structural racism and racial inequities in biomedical research through a new initiative called UNITE. The UNITE initiative’s efforts are being informed by five committees with experts across all 27 NIH institutes and centers who are passionate about racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. NIH also is seeking advice and guidance from outside of the agency through the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), informed by the ACD Working Group on Diversity, and through a Request for Information (RFI). The RFI invites feedback on the approaches NIH can take to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within all facets of the biomedical research workforce and expand research to eliminate or lessen health disparities and inequities. At present, the RFI has a due date of Friday, April 9. ASPET and other stakeholders in the research community have sent a letter to NIH requesting an extension of the deadline so that they may more comprehensively reply to the RFI. You can read the RFI HERE.

General News

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