Uncertainty Surrounding Fiscal Year 2017 Endgame

April 20th, 2017

On April 7, Congress adjourned for a two-week recess, or district work period, without passing legislation to resolve the outstanding Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations for federal agencies, which continue to operate under a Continuing Resolution (CR). Still, negotiations are occurring with hopes of producing an FY 2017 omnibus spending measure.

Most pundits agree, at a minimum, another short-term CR will be necessary to keep the government open beyond April 28, particularly since Congress returns on April 24, only a few short days before the current CR expires. It is not clear that passing a short-term CR will be easily accomplished. The outcome was complicated when, in March, the Trump Administration sent Congress a FY 2017 supplemental funding request that, to pay for a new border wall and enhanced defense spending, requested cutting numerous domestic agencies and programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $1.2 billion and the National Science Foundation (NSF) by $350 million. The supplemental request has been largely dismissed by members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, who have commented that it is simply too late in the fiscal year to impose large spending cuts.

While theories and rumors abound, congressional staff and observers alike believe the ongoing negotiations will ultimately produce a large-scale omnibus funding measure that will first pass the Senate as part of H.R. 5293, the House-passed FY 2017 defense spending measure. The outcome relies heavily, however, on the ability of negotiators to keep the omnibus free of policy “riders,” such as prohibitions on funding for Planned Parenthood. Keeping the bill free of controversial provisions is essential to securing Democratic support for the measure—especially in the Senate. Senate Republicans know that they need Democratic support to pass a final FY 17 appropriations package, because they cannot do it alone. Any compromise measure capable of winning over Senate Republicans and Democrats alike, however, could potentially be opposed when the bill is sent to the House where hard- line conservatives, namely the members of the House Freedom Caucus, could stage a rebellion.

FABBS joins other scientific research organizations in calling on Congress to resolve the FY 2017 appropriations process and pass a FY 2017 omnibus spending bill. The ongoing funding uncertainty precludes agencies, like the NIH and NSF, from implementing new scientific research initiatives and making long-term funding commitments. Further, this uncertainty adversely affects the ability of Congress and the Administration to focus on addressing FY 2018 appropriations bills. FY 2018 begins October 1, and Congress will need time to get twelve, new appropriations bills through the process.