Appropriations Wrap-Up for Fiscal 2011

With both houses of Congress in recess until September, work on appropriations bills for fiscal 2011 has stalled.  While yet to be approved by the full House of Representatives or Senate, working versions of bills providing funding for the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation have passed various committee stages.

In the House, the labor/health and human services (LHHS) subcommittee approved $32 billion in funding for the NIH, equaling President Obama’s request and representing a $1 billion increase over fiscal 2010.  On the Senate side, the same subcommittee and full Appropriations committee have, in line with the House, approved $32 billion in NIH funds, despite a last-minute attempt by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to add an additional $1 billion to the amount.  Both totals are well below the $37 billion favored by ASBMB.  Members of the Senate committee acknowledged that the recommended budget was “less than what would have been desired in stronger economic times,” but they expressed hope that the modest increase in funding would “mark the first of several years of growth for the NIH that, if not spectacular, are at least steady and predictable.”

Meanwhile, the House appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science (CJS) approved $7.42 billion for the NSF, $500M more than FY10 and equal to the president’s request.  However, in the Senate, the NSF was appropriated $7.35 billion by both the CJS subcommittee and the full appropriations committee.  Those two values, both of which are lower than the $7.68 billion that was recommended by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, will need to be reconciled once both full houses pass their respective bills.

It is unclear when any of these bills ultimately will be taken up by the full chambers.  The upcoming midterm elections likely will put a damper on any further congressional activity before November.  In addition, should Republicans gain control of one or both houses of Congress, the prospect of a lame-duck session would further decrease the probability of the bills being passed this year.

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