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 Alexander (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.

{mosads}“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 Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), all appropriators, signed the Thursday letter, along with Republicans Sens. Cory Gardner (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.

Tags Cory Gardner Department of Energy Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Susan Collins

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