R&D Funding Bills Continue to Move through Congress

Lawmakers are working to revitalize federal funding for U.S. research and development (R&D) through two bipartisan bills, one in each chamber of Congress. Throughout the week of May 17-21, the Senate has considered the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, formerly titled the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), which advanced out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 13. The bill would invest in a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Technology and Innovation; provide funding for the NSF, Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and support the creation of national technology hubs. The updated legislation includes concerning provisions related to higher education, most notably giving the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. the ability to review certain foreign contributions to colleges and universities and language lowering Sec. 117 reporting requirements to capture any foreign gifts more than $50,000. Lawmakers continue to unveil proposed amendments to the legislation, which the Senate will vote on before readying the final bill text. A section-by-section summary of the current U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 is available here.

On May 13, the House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee held a markup for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225), advancing the bill to full committee review.  The NSF for the Future Act would increase NSF funding from $8.5 billion annually to $18.3 billion and would fund up to $5 billion for a new Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions by fiscal year 2026. The proposal includes specific provisions related to graduate education, including advancing policies and funding to raise the bar for training, mentoring, and professional development of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The bill would also establish updates to the Graduate Research Fellowship program to address workforce demand, increase the cost of education allowance, and recruit a more diverse pool of applicants. CGS’s endorsement of the bill is available here.

USCIS Funding Opportunity for IHEs to Provide Local Citizenship Preparation Services

On May 17, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced two funding opportunities for local citizenship preparation programs across the country under the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. Seeking to expand availability of high-quality citizenship and integration services throughout the U.S., the Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services opportunity will fund public or nonprofit organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful permanent residents. USCIS expects to award 33 organizations up to $250,000 each for two years through this opportunity. Applications are due by July 16, 2021, and USCIS expects to announce award recipients in September 2021. Additional information, including the notice of the funding opportunity, eligibility guide, and applicant checklist are available here.


“It is critical that we provide immigrants pursuing citizenship and the organizations who help support their efforts with the tools to be successful,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. These services can support Dreamers and immigrant students and scholars, individuals pursuing graduate degrees in the most in-demand sectors of our economy, contributing to life-saving research, and entering the workforce as critical components of our nation’s economic growth. Through this grant opportunity, U.S. colleges and universities can send a clear message inviting these students to continue to serve as essential members of their campuses, communities, and workplaces.

DHS Final Rule Removes Vacated H-1B Visa Rule

On May 17, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that removes the October 2020 DHS interim final rule (IFR) that sought to change the H-1B visa program. In December 2020, a federal district court vacated the October DHS IFR titled, Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program, alongside its accompanying rule from the Department of Labor (DOL). The DHS and DOL IFRs introduced complications to the H-1B visa program, including requiring U.S. employers to pay some foreign workers on H-1B visas significantly higher wages and narrowed eligibility for “specialty occupations.” The May 2021 final rule removes the regulatory text of the vacated DHS IFR published in the Code of Federal Regulations and restores the regulatory text to appear as it did before it was issued in October 2020. CGS’s prior advocacy efforts and a summary document of both IFRs are available here.

Biden Nominations Continue

On April 22, President Biden nominated biogeochemist Asmeret Berhe, University of California Merced, to head the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the lead federal agency supporting fundamental scientific research for energy and oversees and a multi-billion dollar basic research portfolio. She brings significant graduate education and research experience as the current interim associate dean for graduate education at UC Merced. In addition to serving as an interim associate dean and as a professor, Berhe is currently a co-principal investigator in the ADVANCEGeo Partnership – a National Science Foundation funded effort to empower (geo)scientists to respond to and prevent harassment, discrimination, bullying, and other exclusionary behaviors in research environments. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm voiced support for Berhe’s nomination, urging the Senate to confirm her and other DOE officials “…quickly, so that we can get to work.”


On May 20, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced Eric Lander’s nomination to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). If confirmed, Lander would be the first director of OSTP to serve at the cabinet-level, a change President Biden made to the position when he took office. More information on Lander’s nomination is available in a previous edition of Washington Insights & Highlights.


On May 13, the White House announced President Biden’s intent to nominate Catherine Lhamon to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education. Currently serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity, she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. Lhamon previously served as assistant secretary for civil rights in the Obama administration’s Department of Education. Her career includes chairing the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and serving as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom, among various other roles working in the legal system to uphold civil rights.

CDC Officials Testify Before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee

On May 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, and Principal Deputy Director, Anne Schuchat, MD, testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on the agency’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget. Throughout the hearing, Walensky emphasized the science-driven approach the CDC uses in issuing all guidance, including the most recent guidance regarding mask-wearing. “One of the things that I think is really key in this is that we are not a homogenous country,” Walensky said. “The decisions have to be made at a local level.”


Both witnesses defended the Biden administration’s top-line budgetary request, which would allocate $8.7 billion overall for the CDC and provide the largest discretionary funding increase for the agency in nearly two decades. Lawmakers shared in bipartisan support for funding to strengthen public health infrastructure, combat mental health challenges, alleviate health disparities for minorities, and increase local research funding. The White House anticipates that President Biden will release the full FY22 budget proposal on May 28, including detailed budget requests and funding for specific programs. All CGS FY22 appropriations resources are available here.