GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding

GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding
© Greg Nash

Six Senate Republicans sent President Trump a letter Thursday to advocate for strong funding for the Department of Energy’s research programs, which the president has threatened to cut.

The senators, led by Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Trump administration pays June ObamaCare subsidies to insurers Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education MORE (R-Tenn.), didn’t specify a funding level they want Trump to seek in fiscal year 2018, but they attempted to outline the importance of DOE research for the future.

“Government-sponsored research is one of the most important investments our country can make to encourage innovation, unleash our free enterprise system to create good-paying jobs and ensure American competitiveness in a global economy,” the senators wrote.

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“We cannot lose the technological advantages we have gained through our country’s investment in research and development,” they continued. “Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.”

Alexander is one of the senate’s top advocates for DOE research funding, owing in part to the presence of DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He is also the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s subpanel that oversees DOE’s budget.

GOP Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism MORE (Maine), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting MORE (S.C.), all appropriators, signed the Thursday letter, along with Republicans Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerPence meets with Koch brother in Colorado The Hill's 12:30 Report North Korea tests rocket engine for ICBM MORE (Colo.) and Mike Rounds (S.D.).

In Trump’s budget proposal for 2018, released in March, he proposed cutting DOE’s budget by 5.6 percent below the 2016 level. He is reportedly eyeing a 70 percent cut to DOE’s renewables office, 54 percent to its fossil energy office and 31 percent to the nuclear programs.

Trump is planning to unveil a detailed budget proposal for 2018 next week.

DOE research funding is frequently a target of conservatives, who complain that it amounts to the government picking winners and losers in a sector that should be driven by market forces.