All we want for Christmas is a budget deal

The time for Congress to reach a deal on a budget for fiscal 2014 is rapidly approaching. The Congressionally self-imposed deadline of reaching agreement on a budgetary framework is this coming Friday. Coincidentally, Friday is also the day the U.S. House of Representatives is due to adjourn until the new year. Once they return, the House and Senate will have little more than a week to pass appropriations bills that will fund the government through the rest of FY14.

The deal that was being discussed last week still appears to be in place, although we still don’t know how close the two sides are to shaking hands on this agreement. As it stands now, this deal would raise federal spending to about $1.015 trillion for fiscal 2014 and 2015, without addressing many of the drivers of the federal debt and deficit, such as revenues and mandatory spending. The current post-sequestration spending level for the government is $986 billion.

A deal that raised federal spending would greatly benefit science funding agencies. Federal funding agencies have been put under significant strain due to budget cuts and sequestration. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, spoke about the effects of sequestration in an interview with C-SPAN just last week. And while the first year of sequestration has been difficult, the second year may be worse. For the NIH, National Science Foundation and others, a failure to reach a budget agreement would mean cutting more grants when scientists are struggling to fund their labs. This is why a budget deal that sets a specific spending level higher than the current level is a Christmas gift worth wishing for.

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