Last week, the House of Representatives approved by a 212-206 vote a year-long continuing resolution (CR) for FY11 that will freeze funding levels at the FY10 level. The CR keeps total discretionary spending at $1.09 trillion, $45.9 billion less than requested by President Obama in his initial budget. As a result, almost all federal agencies will see flat budgets for the current fiscal year. This means $31 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $6.9 billion for that National Science Foundation. Included in the NIH appropriation is up to $25 million for the Cures Acceleration Network, initially authorized for $50 million.
Retiring Appropriations committee chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) presented the bill with a blistering critique of his fellow lawmakers, indicating his reluctance at recommending a spending package that contained “at least fifty decisions” that he was “flatly opposed to.” However, he conceded that the Appropriations committee had done its “dead level best” to cobble together a final product “in order to keep the government open.”
The appropriations process now heads to the Senate. Speculation is that Appropriations committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) favors an omnibus bill for FY11 that would allow for slight changes in funding levels for certain agencies. However, given the current climate of fiscal austerity and the fact that both the omnibus and CR are single bills containing all appropriations implementations, it is unclear how much the two bills would actually differ from each other. Furthermore, Senate Republicans are likely to filibuster any proposed spending measure, requiring a set of compromises for the process to be completed.
The need for a unified spending bill came about after neither chamber of Congress was able to pass the regular appropriations bills that fund the government before the current fiscal year began on Oct. 1. Only two of twelve bills were passed by the House Appropriations committee, and, while the Senate Appropriations committee was able to pass eleven out of twelve bills, none came up for vote before the full Senate.
The government is currently being run on a temporary CR that will expire at the end of this week on Dec. 18. Congress is set to adjourn on Dec. 17, requiring immediate action on the proposed spending bills to avoid a government shutdown. Stay tuned to the Blotter for the latest updates!