Yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to substantially increase FY 2007 funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. H.J. Resolution 20 now goes to the Senate, with the intention to get this bill on the President’s desk before current funding expires on February 15.
This $463.5 billion bill, written by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) and their staffs, would complete the FY 2007 funding cycle. Nine appropriations bills were left unfinished when the last Congress adjourned (the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security were funded.) The new Democratic leadership wants to complete work on the funding legislation as quickly as possible. President George Bush sends his FY 2008 budget request to Congress on Monday, February 5.
The chairmen’s bill used the amount - $463.5 billion - left from the FY 2007 Republican budget resolution passed last year. By rescinding unobligated balances and cutting 60 programs below current funding levels, $10 billion was made available to address “critical investment needs.” Also, as explained by the House Appropriations Committee, “the joint funding resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks in both the 2006 bill and [accompanying committee report] to honor the commitment to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process was put in place.” Earmarking had grown significantly in recent sessions of Congress.
Almost all government agencies funded under this resolution would receive flat or reduced funding. In most years, the proposed funding increases for NSF, the DOE Office of Science, and the NIST research program that are contained in H.J. Res. 20 would be noteworthy. With almost all budgets being flat, the proposed increases for the three agencies are remarkable:
Under this bill, the National Science Foundation would receive $5,916.2 million, an increase of $335 million, or 6.0 percent, over current year funding of $5,581.2 million. The bill specifies that $4,665.95 million be allocated to the Research and Related Activities budget. This amount is equal to the Administration request, and represents an increase of $335 million or 7.7 percent, in the Research and Related Activities Account. The Summary explains, “This increase is a down-payment towards enhancing U.S. global competitiveness by investing in basic science research.” See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/023.html for information on the original Administration request.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science would receive an increase of $200 million, or 5.6 percent, above its current budget, from $3,596.4 million to $3,796.4 million. In addition, approximately $130 million of previously earmarked funding would be available on an unrestricted basis. The Summary states that the increase is “to support research including new energy technologies such as improved conversion of cellulosic biomass to biofuels.” Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) characterized this “additional” $330 million as “a nearly 10 percent increase for an office that has seen flat funding in recent years.” See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/022.html for information on the request.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology budget would increase $50 million “in new funding for physical science research and lab support for nanotechnology and neutron research” states the Summary. The current NIST laboratory research budget is $375.6 million; the budget would increase by 13.3 percent. Note that the bill specifies that Scientific and Technical Research and Services would receive $432.76 million. See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/024.html for information on the request.
House consideration of the bill was tightly controlled, a point of contention for some Republican representatives. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Minority Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA) complained that in the days leading up to yesterday’s action, subcommittee chairmen, ranking minority members, and subcommittee members were not consulted. There were also complaints about a reduction in funding for military base-closings, and charges that the resolution contained earmarked money. The bill passed by a vote of 286-140, with 57 Republicans joining all but two Democrats in voting for the bill (see http://clerk.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.asp?year=2007&rollnumber=72)
The bill has now been sent to the Senate, which must act before February 15. Senators are expected to debate the Iraq war next week, and then turn to the funding resolution. Some senators are already signaling their opposition to the bill, and said that they may try to amend it, which would require that a conference be held between the House and Senate before the legislation could be sent to President Bush. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that floor procedures are under consideration, but noted that if the funding bill is not completed by the 15th that the government will close down. One news publication quotes him as saying that he was not going to be “a Mr. Nice Guy” in getting the legislation passed and sent to President Bush for his signature before this deadline.