After negotiations between President Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, broke down earlier this week, the speaker began pushing his own legislation to preserve tax cuts for everyone making under $1 million per year. Knowing Democrats would not support the bill, the speaker worked hard to rally Republican votes for his Plan B. However, late last night, Boehner pulled the bill from the House floor, conceding that it would not pass. The Policy Blotter has learned that negotiations between the president and speaker have resumed, but it is not clear if Boehner has enough power in the House Republican caucus to rally enough votes to pass compromise legislation.
As a sign that the White House may be losing confidence that a deal can be reached before the end of the year, the Office of Management and Budget yesterday issued guidance to all federal agencies to begin planning for sequestration. This means that agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, will begin devising plans for implementing an 8.2 percent cut to their budgets. OMB has delayed issuing this guidance for quite a while as officials there were optimistic a deal to avert the fiscal cliff would be reached and sequestration would not be necessary. It is not clear how research funding agencies will spread these cuts among all of their programs, but NIH Director Francis S. Collins suggested to Congress earlier this year that nearly 2,300 grants could be lost due to sequestration.
Congress is now on break for the Christmas holiday, and the Policy Blotter is on break as well. We will be back Dec. 26 to update the community on any progress made over the next four days. In the meantime, continue to talk to your representatives to urge them to not let science funding go over the fiscal cliff by finding a deal that averts sequestration and preserves nondefense discretionary spending. You can send a letter, send them a tweet or even make a phone call to your representative’s office.
Have a happy and safe holiday!