Fiscal cliff: Have negotiations stalled?

No new plans to solve the fiscal cliff have been released since U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, plan yesterday morning. However, that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Talks between Boehner and President Obama have ceased since the speaker announced that he was going to move forward with a bill he has called “Plan B,” which would extend tax breaks for everyone making less than $1 million per year. This plan would not address any other parts of the fiscal cliff such as sequestration, which would cut 8.2 percent of the research budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies.

Obama has said that he is puzzled by the Republican’s rejection of the president’s latest proposal because the two sides seem to be very close to a deal. You can check out just how close the two plans are here. Furthermore, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said that the Republican Plan B won’t pass the Senate, and Obama has said that he would not sign such legislation. (Caution: If you follow this link, beware of the terrible poker pun in the first sentence!) Nevertheless, Obama remains optimistic a deal will be cut in time.

With a look at the deals proposed by Obama and Boehner, discretionary spending, which is the part of the budget that funds research agencies, is likely to be slashed. How this will affect the NIH, NSF and other agencies is not yet known. However, the severe constraints of previously passed legislation and the continuing specter of budget cuts spell an uncertain future for future research funding.

If you want to let your legislators know just how important research funding is for you and your institution, go to the ASBMB Take Action! page and choose the letter that suits you. You can also tweet or call your representative’s office to let him or her know your opinions.

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