Spending Talk Dominates Federal Government

President Obama made investment a major topic in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, specifically mentioning “biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology” as areas of focus.  Also on the agenda was education, with the President urging “every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice… [to] become a teacher.”  “We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” claimed the President.

Despite calling for these investments, Obama also introduced a plan to freeze non-security discretionary spending levels for the next five years, giving science agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation flat budgets to look forward to.  According to the President, the freeze will reduce the federal deficit by $400 billion.

Over on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to limit non-defense discretionary spending to FY 2008 levels, a $60 billion decrease from FY 2010.  However, the non-binding measure did not contain specific details as to programs or agencies that would face cuts.  The vote follows the introduction of the Spending Reduction Act last week by the Republican Study Committee, which did give explicit examples of programs to be cut, such as the National Endowment for the Arts.  While major funding agencies such as NIH and NSF were not listed, the resolution does indicate that the bill would incorporate suggestions from the infamous “YouCut” website, which recently featured Congressman Adrian Smith, R-Neb., imploring members of the general public to scour the NSF website in search of “questionable” grants that could be rescinded.

The budget fight seems certain to heat up in the coming months.  Following the release of the President’s budget for FY 2012 in February, Congressional Appropriations staff and committees will begin work on finalizing spending bills for FY 2011, before turning to the upcoming fiscal year.  The government is currently being run on a continuing resolution that holds spending at FY 2010 levels through March 4.

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