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Senate Committee Advances Research Relief Legislation

September 18, 2020

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CONTACTS
Christa Wagner, Senior Legislative Analyst

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced an amended version of the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (S. 4286) by voice vote in a Sept. 16 executive session. The AAMC and the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, convened by the AAMC, have endorsed the legislation.

The bipartisan, bicameral RISE Act aims to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 to the U.S. research enterprise by authorizing $26 billion in emergency relief to federal science agencies, including a proposed $10 billion investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [see Washington Highlights, June 26, July 31]. The amendment passed by the Senate committee included minor modifications that did not impact proposed funding overall or to the NIH.

The Senate vote followed the Sept. 9 House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research Technology hearing, “The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on University Research,” which was focused on legislation to support research relief efforts, including the RISE Act (H.R. 7308).

House members asked university representatives about their institutions’ abilities to pivot from regular research programs to developing and executing SARS-CoV-2 testing, as well as the pandemic’s impact on the United States’ global competitiveness, disproportionate effect on female scientists, potential to delay career trajectories of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and varying degrees of slowing progress in different research fields.

In their opening statements, several members shared their support for the RISE Act to help mitigate these impacts. “Universities are being squeezed on both sides with a significant loss of revenue and unanticipated cost of cleaning up their campuses, providing that [personal protective equipment], developing their own testing and contact tracing technologies, and ramping down and restarting their research programs as well as the virtual learning environments,” noted Subcommittee Chairwoman Haley Stevens (D-Mich.).

“I am especially concerned about the fallout from this pandemic undercutting the gains we have made in diversifying our STEM pipeline, including the geographic diversity that will help communities across the nation revitalize their economies in the coming years. We cannot allow that long-term damage to happen,” said full committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).

Full committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) added, “We know it will take time and financial resources to get the research enterprise back up on its feet.  But if we do not provide the resources now, we will be limiting our ability to support new and innovative research and forced to play catch up to our foreign competitors like China.”

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