Two weeks ago, I wrote about the continuing resolution that is funding the federal government through Dec. 11. With all of the recent news about Ebola research funding, I wanted to revisit the fiscal 2015 research funding outlook before Congress returns after the election.
There are three options for Congress regarding FY15 funding: (1) pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year; (2) pass another continuing resolution to fund the government until the start of the new Congress in January; or (3) pass nothing and shut down the government. While a government shutdown is unlikely, the choice between options 1 and 2 likely will be driven by the election results. If Republicans gain the majority in the U.S. Senate (more information here), they may push for another short-term continuing resolution so the incoming Congress can decide about FY15 funding. If the Democrats hold their Senate majority, it is likely an omnibus will be passed.
Regardless of what happens in the election, the 2013 Ryan-Murray agreement set overall spending levels for FY15, so there is little wiggle room in the budget. The House and Senate appropriations bills affecting research are all pretty similar. For example, the U.S. House commerce, justice and science appropriations bill, which includes National Science Foundation funding, is $19.226 billion, while the Senate’s is $19.24 billion. While the two chambers seem to be close to agreeing on many funding issues, there are still a number of potential sticking points, none of which pertain to biomedical research.
Beyond FY15, sequestration is looming for FY16 and would be detrimental to science. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., introduced bills in their respective chambers to exempt the NIH from sequestration and increase its budget annually over the next six years. The ASBMB does not support Harkin and DeLauro’s bills; while well-intended, the legislation exempts only the NIH from sequestration and does not relieve other federal research funding programs like NSF. The ASBMB and many other groups favor the elimination of all spending caps and sequestration and advocate for a sustainable, long-term funding plan for biomedical research.
Follow the Policy Blotter for the latest funding information, and remember to vote on Nov. 4th!