The past two weeks have seen tremendous activity in the Senate Appropriations Committee, particularly from subcommittees that control funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
On September 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee appropriations bill. The CJS subcommittee controls funding allocations for the National Science Foundation and set the FY12 NSF budget at $6.7 billion, 2.4%, or $162 million, lower than the level for FY11. Chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), was clearly disappointed in the reduced funding allocation for NSF noting that the committee had historically followed recommendations given in the America COMPETES Act.
In July, the equivalent House Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill that held the 2012 NSF funding level steady at $6.86 billion. Since the Senate and House bills must agree for their final approval, members of the community have suggested the NSF budget could be restored to that presented in the House bill.
Then on Wednesday, September 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee appropriations bill, which set funding for NIH at $30.5 billion, a cut of 0.6%, or $190 million, from the 2011 level. Also included in the Senate LHHS subcommittee bill, was funding for the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a new center at NIH dedicated to “translating biomedical research more rapidly into cures.” While a top priority for NIH director, Francis Collins, the creation of NCATS has been met with some controversy within the scientific and legislative communities.
The House LHHS subcommittee was scheduled to mark up its corresponding bill on September 9, but was postponed until an as yet to be determined date. The Hill reports that the hold-up may be due in part to concern from several Republican members over the overall spending level.
To further complicate matters, as the end of the fiscal year approaches on September 30, the House introduced a Continuing Resolution that would allow the government to continue to function until November 18. While the first attempt to pass the CR was defeated in the House, it was approved late Thursday night after minor revisions. The text of the CR can be found here. Consequently, the CR does not contain a provision for the creation of NCATS.
The CR is expected to be passed by both chambers before legislators are recessed for the Jewish high holy days.
ASBMB Public Affairs staff will continue to monitor the appropriations process and provide updates as they arise.