Election Day 2018

Published November 01 2018

In a few days, Americans will exercise the right to vote. This midterm election falls two years into President Donald Trump’s first term. Only twice since World War II has the president’s party not lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate. Polling data and political scientists seem to agree that this year the House is likely to switch to a Democratic majority for the first time since 2010 and the Republican majority in the Senate is likely to remain slim.

Voting information

Whatever your political bent, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology encourages you to take the time to get out and vote. If you don’t know where your polling location is or the hours you can vote, visit USA.gov/election-day for all the relevant local information.

What would changes to party control mean, particularly for science funding?

Broadly, Democratic control of the House likely would roll back fiscal policies that have stifled some federal investments in science. Self-imposed caps on domestic spending have forced the U.S. Congress to limit investment in important programs across the government. In recent years, for example, Congress has provided increases for the National Institutes of Health while leaving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relatively flat funded. It’s possible that a Democratic House will work to raise or remove the spending caps. If the House flips, Democrats likely will work to increase investments in their priorities, such as environmental sciences.

Democratic control of the House is not likely to have a significant impact on funding for life science research at the National Science Foundation or the NIH. The NIH has been the beneficiary of four straight years of significant budget increases with the Republican majority, and indications are that House Democratic leaders would continue the trend of bipartisan support for biomedical research and innovation.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., has been chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee for the recent budget cycles that have resulted in $2 billion annual increases at the NIH. A Democratic victory this month likely would elevate Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to chairwoman of the committee. DeLauro is an outspoken champion for the NIH and was a 2015 recipient of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award (with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.) for her support of the agency.

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A Democratic takeover of the Senate is a slim possibility at best, according to analyses. Assuming that the current Republican majority holds after the election, we might see a renewed interest in bipartisanship and compromise, as each chamber of Congress will need support from the opposing party for governing to take place.

Whoever wins, the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee is preparing a welcome package for the newly elected congressional members and their staffs. The package will include state- and district-specific information on federal funding for science, as well as materials explaining the importance of basic science and robust support for the agencies that fund the ASBMB’s members.

We look forward to working with members of Congress from both parties to help create the best environment possible for science.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB. Follow him on Twitter.