Jenny Baker
/ Categories: TIP, 2021, 583

Update From Washington: 2020 Election Fallout

Bill Ruch, Alex Alonso, & Jack Goodman

NOTE: This analysis is based on current projections for the most statistically likely 2020 election outcomes as of December 1, 2020—a new Biden Administration, a Republican-controlled Senate, and a Democratic-controlled House. It may be weeks before legal challenges are resolved regarding the presidential race, and control of the Senate will likely be determined by the winners of the two Georgia special elections in January. However, Lewis-Burke believes it is prudent to plan based on the currently forecasted, most likely outcome and understand the implications for research, education, and academic medicine federal programs. Lewis-Burke will update its analysis as necessary in the next iteration of this column in the event of a different electoral outcome.

After a contested and unpredictable presidential election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeated President Trump to become the forty-sixth president of the United States in January 2021. Despite predictions of a congressional "blue wave," the Senate will likely remain in Republican control, and Democrats are likely to maintain control of the House with a diminished majority. This would usher in at least 2 years of divided government. In some cases, divided government would cause gridlock and prevent President-Elect Joe Biden from advancing his more ambitious campaign promises, such as sweeping climate change legislation or creating a public option for healthcare insurance. In other cases, there would be opportunities for compromise on issues including addressing pandemic preparedness, making infrastructure investments, and advancing long-standing research interests.

With a divided Congress, President-Elect Biden is expected to use executive authorities, when feasible, to advance his priorities, such as rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global climate change and extending immigration protections to Dreamers, as well as reverse many of the Trump administration’s executive orders, such as on immigration, the First Amendment, the federal workforce, and “race and sex stereotyping.” President-Elect Biden has also made restoring the federal workforce a top priority to more effectively execute federal programs and strengthen federal oversight and enforcement. President-Elect Biden plans to move quickly to fill critical cabinet and other federal positions. Of particular note, President-Elect Biden has stated that he plans to put science at the forefront of policymaking, especially to address the coronavirus and future pandemics, and in laying the groundwork for a path to net-zero-carbon-emissions economy wide by 2050 to mitigate climate change.

A Biden administration will have an opportunity to present the first budget request to Congress in 10 years without budget caps and legally mandated defense and non-defense funding splits. While campaigning, President-Elect Biden stated that although he has no plans to propose significant cuts to defense spending, boosting nondefense spending—especially for research and development, healthcare, and infrastructure—are top priorities. However, a Republican-controlled Senate would likely push back against major discretionary funding increases and point to growing deficits.

Implications for SIOP Advocacy

The results are very encouraging for SIOP advocacy. A fresh administration will likely bring even more interest in evidence-based policymaking, and SIOP and its federal relations partners at Lewis-Burke are poised to take advantage of this enthusiasm. Among the issues that are expected to have renewed interest are policing reform; rebuilding and restoring the federal workforce; and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in federal settings and programs. As noted in the articles below, SIOP has already consulted with the Biden transition teams around several of these thrusts and will look to position our members to be on the front line of future conversations.

Additionally, SIOP’s emphasis on nonpartisan areas of long-standing political interest has positioned the Society to thrive in a divided Congress. It is expected that there will be strong interest in evidence-based policy making around each of SIOP’s core advocacy area topics, including health and well-being, defense and national security, community policing, veterans transition, the technology-enabled workforce, and education and workforce development. SIOP and Lewis-Burke convened working groups of members to provide I-O findings in support of policy development around these thrusts. Most of these working groups have met with congressional audiences and are ready to hit the ground running in the new year. For instance, SIOP has already provided consultation to congressional staff members around a number of major bills that will likely be reintroduced in the new year, including legislation related to priorities at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Although progress on moving legislation could be slow, SIOP is ready to work with congressional staff to inform their decision making, sign on to letters of support for legislation that aligns with our advocacy goals, and further solidify relationships with federal agencies interested in innovative workforce solutions.

SIOP Advocates for Research Funding in Lame Duck Session

Before presidential and congressional changes go into effect, President Trump and the current Congress have a long list of outstanding legislation to finish during the December “lame duck” session of Congress, including a coronavirus aid package, all 12 annual FY 2021 appropriations bills, the annual defense policy bill, and potentially an energy innovation package. Although there is a commitment to complete these legislative items by the end of the year, there are still many unresolved issues, and the two parties remain far apart on funding and policy priorities. Reaching a budget agreement to advance annual appropriations and a more ambitious coronavirus aid package will be one of the Biden administration’s first challenges if not resolved during the lame-duck session.

At the time of this writing, the Senate Appropriations Committee had just released all 12 of its annual fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills. Although the House passed 10 of its 12 spending bills earlier this summer, the Senate has not passed any. With the slowest start in congressional appropriations process in more than 30 years, the Senate finally released the details of all of its bills to help launch negotiations with the House and try to pass an “omnibus” spending package that includes all 12 bills before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 11. This date will likely be extended with another short-term CR.

Like the House, the Senate rejected significant cuts to federal agencies proposed by the Trump administration. Facing the same budget constraints under the last year of legally mandated budget caps, the Senate, like the House, provided only modest increases to federal programs compared to prior years. However, the Senate still grew or maintained stable funding compared to FY 2020 for most federal programs of interest to the communities.

Of note to SIOP, the Senate bill would provide considerable funding for policing-reform measures at the Department of Justice (DOJ), but there is strong disagreement on party lines over how it should be allocated. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $8.478 billion, which is $200 million or 2.4% above the FY 2020 level and $737 million more than the president’s budget request. The Senate level would be $70 million below what the House version would provide. In response, SIOP joined other universities and research institutes to sign onto a letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in support of the House level for NSF in the conference negotiations. Lewis-Burke and SIOP will continue to monitor the situation and seek opportunities to engage on behalf of these and other crucial research offices as deliberations continue.

SIOP Issues Transition Statement for Biden Campaign

This election cycle marked a first for SIOP advocacy! At the direction of SIOP leadership, teams of SIOP volunteers were convened to work with Lewis-Burke to develop I-O-based recommendations for an incoming presidential administration leading up to the November elections. The teams compiled two white papers to address areas of strong I-O expertise and federal interest: federal workforce support and policing reform.

Both white papers aimed to communicate I-O psychology research findings to support policy development. The federal workforce white paper includes evidence-backed recommendations on developing effective hiring and recruitment practices, training and development programs, morale and retention initiatives, and other federal activities, contributed by SIOP experts including Talya Bauer and Kurt Kraiger. The policing white paper features examples of the application of scientific theory and data-driven methods and findings to enhance police recruitment and selection processes, supervision and leadership, training and development, diversity and inclusion, and other areas. The policing white paper was compiled by SIOP’s new standing working group on policing, composed of Ann Marie Ryan, Rick Jacobs, Amy Grubb, and Sergeant Anna Tornello.

In the lead-up to Election Day, Lewis-Burke engaged with policy advisors to former Vice President Joe Biden and shared the white papers and expert recommendations. By engaging President-Elect Biden’s transition team, SIOP stands to influence future policy initiatives around rebuilding the federal workforce and policing reform, both of which are immediate priorities of the incoming administration. Following the election, Lewis-Burke has continued to send the white papers to new contacts as the names of key advisors become known. SIOP will continue to provide expert input to the Biden administration and congressional contacts from both parties as they seek to develop and implement new initiatives related to the workforce and workplace.

Working Groups Finalize Advocacy Statements

This year, SIOP launched a series of new advocacy areas on health and well-being; national security; policing; and education, development, and training. Advocacy areas are signature efforts for SIOP government relations to provide member-driven support for the consideration of evidence-based I-O psychology as policymakers address the various challenges and opportunities related to major cross-cutting areas of political relevance. Since forming, the advocacy area working groups have been hard at work to get their message out to policymakers.

The first step after convening the working groups is to draft an advocacy statement to inform federal stakeholders on I-O psychology and how I-O research can help create evidence-based policies in a given area. The statements, which provide practical examples of how I-O findings can be leveraged to address various issues within these thrusts, will be used as tools for engaging federal audiences who may not be familiar with SIOP or I-O. The exercise also allows the working-group members to understand how to effectively summarize I-O findings for federal audiences. These statements have already been leveraged in conversations between advocacy area members and congressional committee staff, facilitated by Lewis-Burke, to introduce the groups and offer I-O’s expertise on relevant and forthcoming legislation. The new advocacy statements can be found on the Resources page of the SIOP Government Relations website here. Lewis-Burke will continue to provide updates on Advocacy Area activities as the new administration and Congress begin in 2021.

SIOP Support Early Career Researchers

Through various advocacy activities, SIOP has formed a relationship with the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, whose staff provide advance information to the Society for feedback on upcoming legislation and opportunities to voice our support. In August, staff reached out to Lewis-Burke to see if the Society would support the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act. The bill would establish a new $250 million fellowship program at NSF to help postdoctoral researchers weather the disruptions in the academic job market caused by the COVID-19 crisis. If passed, the bill would benefit SIOP members whose careers could be impacted by the pandemic. Upon hearing of this opportunity, SIOP leadership quickly approved the Society’s formal support for the bill.

Broad support is needed to elevate issues of importance to the scientific community in future negotiations over COVID-19 relief packages. Lewis-Burke will continue to work closely with SIOP leadership to capitalize on opportunities to advocate with others in the community on behalf of our members’ interests. More information on the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act can be found here.

GREAT Committee Advocacy Insights for 2021 and Beyond

In recent weeks, GREAT Committee members have been participating in a SIOP advocacy roadshow with I-O programs like George Mason University. GREAT Committee leaders, invited by Reeshad Dalal and Seth Kaplan, provided insights into the role of I-O psychology in advocating for workplace science to more than 40 graduate students and alumni. In addition, they shared information about the post-election climate for I-O psychology in the federal landscape. To learn more about how you can leverage this for your next seminar or lunch-and-learn session, please do not hesitate to contact Alex Alonso at


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