Congress reconvened Tuesday and will remain in session for four weeks. We expect that lawmakers will pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at least into December. If, by the off chance, lawmakers do not pass a continuing resolution and instead proceed to resolve their differences to pass an actual appropriations bill, we recommend that they take a close look at the fiscal 2017 OMB Sequestration Update Report.
Last month, the Office of Management and Budget released a report mandated by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. This report compares the proposed appropriations put forward by Congress with discretionary caps that set a maximum amount lawmakers can appropriate to fund the federal government.
Due to new caps enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, the proposed House appropriation bills at their current levels will require a $792 million sequestration in nondefense discretionary spending. If a sequestration does occur, it will result in across-the-board cuts to federal funding to bring appropriated funds down to capped levels. Such cuts have the possibility of derailing important research breakthroughs and halting innovation.
The Senate’s proposed appropriation bills, however, do not exceed the established 2017 cap. If the House and the Senate remedy their appropriation bill differences to mirror what is currently offered by the Senate, the nondefense Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agency funding bill, which supports the National Science Foundation, will receive $300 million more than what is proposed by the House; however, the non-defense Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies funding bill, which supports the National Institutes of Health, will come in at $1.2 billion less.
As we reported here, the LHHS bills put forward by the House and Senate appropriations committees increase the NIH’s budget by $1.25 and $2 billion, respectively. Additionally, the proposed CJS bill put forward by the Senate will decrease the NSF’s budget by $57 million, while the House’s proposed funding bill will increase it by $45 million.
It is impossible to predict how both houses of Congress will come together to settle their differences moving forward. Nevertheless, we hope that once the dust settles both the NIH and NSF will receive the necessary increases to continue to support the advancement of scientific research.