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Washington Update: December 4, 2019

Budget update, EPIC hearing, Barry Myers withdrawal

Dec 4, 2019 - by Staff

Budget Updates: Congress passed a stopgap spending measure funding the federal government through December 20 just hours before the previous continuing resolution expired on November 21. House and Senate appropriators then began negotiations over the allocations for each of the 12 annual spending bills, known as 302(b)s, and struck a compromise late November. Though the final allocations have yet to be publicly released, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) subcommittee benefitted the most from these negotiations, leaving other subcommittees, like Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), with fewer funds to work with. 

With an agreement on the 302(b)s reached, the committees began conference talks to work out the differences between the appropriations bills, which they aim to pass before the December 20 deadline. However, lawmakers have acknowledged that there’s no guarantee of reaching a compromise on any of the bills before the pre-Christmas deadline. President Trump also recently announced that he would refuse to sign any FY20 appropriations bills until he sees what funding will look like for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), presumably to see how immigration policy and the border wall is handled. This development complicates any previous strategies to pass non-controversial bills first while leaving the more difficult items for later on and could lead to a yearlong stopgap.

EPIC hearing: On November 20, the House Science Committee, Environment Subcommittee, held a hearing titled “A Task of EPIC Proportions: Reclaiming U.S. Leadership in Weather Modeling and Prediction.” Members of the Committee directed most of their questions to Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction, performing the duties of Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at NOAA. Jacobs answered questions from members about EPIC’s engagement with the academic community, the acquisition timeline, and the project’s contribution to increased weather forecast accuracy. Jacobs also answered questions on the governance structure for EPIC, and whether EPIC would ever have a physical location. When pressed for more logistical details, Jacobs said the RFP would be released early next year.

Barry Myers withdrawal: Barry Myers, the former chief executive of AccuWeather who was first nominated to lead NOAA in a controversial move by President Trump in 2017, asked the White House to withdraw his nomination, saying that surgery and chemotherapy made it “impractical” for him to serve.  Myers’ nomination had stalled for nearly two years in the Senate, leaving NOAA without a Senate-confirmed leader for the longest period since the agency was created in 1970.

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