Last week, the full House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted 27-21 to approve how much each individual subcommittee would be allowed to allocate to their respective agencies in FY 2012. The House assumed an overall discretionary spending level of $1.019 trillion, $30.4 billion below current (FY 2011) levels, as dictated by the budget plan passed by the House in April.
The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education allocation, which funds the National Institutes of Health, Center for Disease Control, and Food and Drug Administration as well as other agencies, totals $139 billion, which is $18 billion (13 percent) less than current levels, thereby rolling overall funding for these programs back to FY 2004 levels. Meanwhile, the Commerce, Justice and Science allocation that includes the National Science Foundation is $50 billion, $3 billion (6 percent) less than in FY 2011. A full list of the allocation levels can be found here.
It is unclear whether individual agency budgets will be evenly affected by these caps, or whether certain agencies will see deeper cuts than others. However, a group of Republican House members has sent a letter to LHHS subcommittee chairman Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., asking that NIH be spared from the impending cuts. Led by stalwart NIH champion Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., the lawmakers urged Chairman Rehberg “to consider the wide-ranging, positive effects of investment in research on health and the economy.”
Though the drastic budget cuts passed by the House are unlikely to pass through the Senate, they do signal the probable floor when budget negotiations between the two chambers eventually take place. The individual Appropriations subcommittees will hold hearings throughout the summer to determine how to divvy up their respective allocations. Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., has laid out an ambitious markup schedule for each of the 12 individual subcommittee bills, aiming to have them completed by the beginning of August. The Senate Appropriations committee has given little indication on when it will mark up its corresponding bills, thus likely setting the stage for another protracted budget battle next fall.
ASBMB will continue to meet with congressional offices to advocate for sustainable budgets for science funding agencies. The proposed cuts send a clear signal to the scientific community that their voice, now more than ever, needs to be loudly heard. Contact the Office of Public Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on how you can help!