With Republicans winning one-party control of the federal government in last Tuesday’s election, the party now has more latitude to advance its priorities. Implications for science will begin to unfold in the “lame duck” session of Congress that opened yesterday.
Today, the president signed a stopgap spending bill that extends current fiscal year funding for the federal government through Dec. 9. With Congress recessing at the end of this week to campaign for the general election, major science-related legislation will not see further movement earlier than mid-November.
A group of industry, higher education, and scientific organizations has reissued a statement calling for Congress to increase federal support of basic research, streamline research regulations, and reaffirm merit-based review, among other actions.
With all 12 appropriations bills now drafted, the outcome of funding for the federal science agencies in fiscal year 2017 is coming into focus, with appropriations on track in many cases to diverge from the president’s discretionary funding requests.
If history is any guide, Congress will almost certainly pass one or more stopgap spending measures before reaching a final agreement on funding for fiscal year 2017. The question now becomes whether the current Congress and outgoing president will finalize an agreement in the lame-duck session or instead hand off responsibility for the final negotiations to the 115th Congress and the incoming administration.
NSF’s education programs would see steady funding under current spending bills, while the Department of Education’s STEM programs are undergoing major statutory realignment, leading to disagreement between the president, House, and Senate on the best level of support.
House and Senate appropriators are seeking to reverse the administration’s proposed 3.1 percent discretionary funding cut to the National Institutes of Health and instead boost the agency’s budget by as much as $2 billion above current levels. Under their proposals, all NIH research institutes would see increases.
Yesterday the White House threatened to veto the House defense appropriations bill and the Senate CJS appropriations bill that funds four federal science agencies. The chambers are actively considering both bills on their respective floors this week, but White House opposition and partisan controversies connected to the bills threaten to derail them.
NOAA would see a 3.2 percent funding cut under the House bill and a 1.3 percent cut under the Senate’s. Both would fund the president’s full request for flagship weather satellite programs and boost the National Weather Service slightly above the requested level. NOAA research, however, faces cuts to well below the president’s requested level.
Following the president’s request for a 5.2 percent funding increase for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in fiscal year 2017, the House and Senate proposals are a field apart. The House is proposing a 10.3 percent overall cut but would spare laboratory research, while the Senate would provide a slight 1.0 percent increase.