While many of you may be sipping on eggnog or picking out that perfect “white elephant” gift for your office holiday party, the mood has been less than merry in Washington this December. After the embarrassing failure of the supercommittee to produce a debt deal, Congress has been frantically trying to save face by wrapping up the FY12 appropriations process before they break for the holidays.
Just before Thanksgiving, Congress passed a “minibus” bill that combined three appropriations bills for several government agencies, such as agriculture, criminal justice, transportation and housing agencies and several science-funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation. However, there are still nine appropriations bills left for FY12, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill, which sets funding for the National Institutes of Health. NIH is currently being funded through a continuing resolution that sets the funding level 1.5 percent BELOW that of FY11.
There are two scenarios circulating as to how these final nine bills could be completed.
- Would combine all remaining nine appropriations bills
- More difficult to get this passed because it would mean negotiating spending levels for all the remaining agencies
- NIH funding will probably fall somewhere between the levels set in the House and Senate bills (+3.3% to -0.6% of the FY11 level)
2) Omnibus with a year long CR
- Would combine all remaining bills EXCEPT those for the LHHS and the Interior bills
- Spending for LHHS and Interior would be set by a year long CR
- These two bills are the most controversial and have the most dissimilarity between the House and the Senate funding levels
- Would leave NIH funding at the current level (1.5% below FY11) until Sept. 30.
Not surprisingly, those in the research community favor scenario No. 1. With the current CR set to expire Dec. 16, Congress has a little over a week to negotiate the final spending package.
UPDATE: Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations committee, announced that the House and Senate will hold a joint Conference Committee meeting to negotiate an omnibus package for the nine remaining appropriations bills. The Conference Report is expected to be released early next week.