House Dems, GOP slam Trump's proposed NSF cuts

House Democrats and Republicans found common ground Tuesday in denunciating President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s proposed 12 percent cut to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the country’s leading backer of non-medical research.

“Why would anyone in the world want to cut NSF funding given that its funding drives our economy, enhances our national security, and advances this nation’s leadership globally?” asked an indignant Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightHouse Dems up funding for science agencies, ignoring proposed Trump cuts Overnight Energy: Dems press Interior chief to embrace climate action | Lawmakers at odds on how to regulate chemicals in water | Warren releases climate plan for military Interior chief dismisses climate concerns in first Natural Resources hearing: 'I haven't lost any sleep over it' MORE (D-Pa.) during a hearing on Trump’s proposed budget for the NSF at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

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The $1 billion cut would lower the agency’s funding to 2012 levels and drop the number of research grants from 11,600 in fiscal 2019 to 10,400. The agency would have to scale back the number of graduate students receiving awards to 1,600, a 25 percent decrease. 

“I know that budgets are tight, but there are certain areas that should not face cuts,” said subcommittee Chairman José Serrano (D-N.Y.). “We worry that these cuts are really harming our future.”  

The panel’s Republicans had equally strong misgivings about the proposed cut.

“Even in times of fiscal restraint, this committee has remained supportive of NSF’s efforts to ensure that students, scientists and universities have the funds to carry out their vital research,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the subcommittee’s ranking member.

In a scene that has become common in the Trump era, the agency’s director, Dr. France A. Córdova, was forced to provide justifications for the budget cuts, even while extolling the organization’s work.

“Every day, we interact with advancements that would not be possible without the National Science Foundation,” Córdova said, noting that NSF funding helped to develop touchscreens and GPS technology used in smart phones, the research that daily weather forecasts use, and bar codes.

“Sometimes basic research is criticized at first for seeming silly or wasteful or unworthy of federal resources,” she continued, pointing out that NSF had been criticized early on for its funding of research developing American Sign Language.

She emphatically thanked the committee for funding NSF at record levels in 2019, a move that ignored Trump’s previous requests to cut the agency’s funding.

But when repeatedly asked to justify the cuts to programs that appropriators cited as important to American innovation, economic growth and global competitiveness, Córdova, an Obama appointee, noted that the cut was part of the administration’s larger reduction in nondefense spending aimed at reducing deficits.

“This is the president’s budget,” she said at one point. “The overall framework is the president’s initiative to get us back on course with the big deficit our country is facing.”