Around 25 percent of the US Government remains closed after attempts to resolve a dispute over the federal budget were abandoned on Thursday (December 27), CNN reports. The impasse, which forced science agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency to begin partially shutting down operations last week (December 22), is now likely to drag into 2019.
“I deeply regret that we face these challenges at any time—and especially at this time of the year,” wrote FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a letter to staff last week (December 20) and obtained by MedTech Dive, when the likelihood of a shutdown became clear. “I remain optimistic that Congress will work quickly to maintain the government’s funding so we may continue to carry out all of the activities that support our important mission.”
The dispute centers on President Donald Trump’s insistence on securing $5 billion in funding to build a wall on the US-Mexican border—a demand that Democrats and several Republican members of Congress oppose. The resulting shutdown is the third this year.
While some federal science agencies—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health—remain open thanks to special funding bills, many government offices have now wound down all but essential operations, with hundreds of thousands of remaining employees being required to work without pay.
The move means that grant checks from funding agencies such as the NSF won’t be issued, nor will new grant applications be reviewed. In a statement on its website, the NSF advises its reviewers to “monitor news outlets to determine if the Federal government, and therefore the NSF, is open for business. If the government is closed, panelists are instructed not to travel.” (Emphasis NSF’s.)
“Any shutdown of the federal government can disrupt or delay research projects, lead to uncertainty over new research, and reduce researcher access to agency data and infrastructure,” says Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and himself a former lawmaker (D-NJ), in a statement. “We urge Congress and the White House to work together in a bipartisan manner to reach an agreement on fiscal year 2019 appropriations that allows continued operation of research agencies. . . . Continuing resolutions and short-term extensions are no way to run a government.”
After yesterday’s attempts to pass a budget fell apart, efforts to reopen the government will now likely be delayed until Congress reconvenes—with a Democratic majority in the House resulting from November’s midterm elections—on January 3.