Progress and Uncertainty in the Federal Budget Process

June 27, 2019

As we approach the July 4 recess, the House continues to make progress on appropriations bills while the Senate continues to contemplate top line numbers and the White House floats the idea of a one-year continuing resolution at FY 2019 budget levels.

Earlier this month, and after lengthy discussion on possible amendments, the House passed the first four-bill “minibus” spending package (H.R. 2740) that included both the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Education Sciences at record levels, $41 billion and $650 million, respectively. The bill passed by a vote of 226-203 (roll call here – Thank your Representative if they voted for it!). No Republicans voted for the measure, and seven Democrats voted against it. In addition to strong numbers, the bill report included important language supporting the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research as well as encouragement to include behavioral, social or public health representatives on all NIH Councils.

On June 25, the House passed, on a mostly party-line vote of 227-194, a second FY 2020 “minibus” (H.R. 3055) that included a 6.9 percent increase for the National Science Foundation. In addition to the strong numbers for NSF, the bill report included language supporting the important contribution of research funded by the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) science directorate at NSF. The language also protects SBE from receiving less in FY 2020 than it did in FY 2019. While the House budgets still needs to be reconciled with the Senate budgets, unless Senate language directly contradicts this report language, this wording will remain intact. The White House has threatened to veto both bills were they to make it to the President’s desk.

The Senate does not appear to be any closer to a path forward. Chairman Shelby had been holding out for a budget cap agreement that doesn’t seem to be materializing. While the White House and Congressional leadership has reportedly agreed that they will avoid a shutdown and sequestration — which would be roughly a 10 percent, or $125 billion cut, for FY 2020 — they have not yet agreed to funding levels for FY 2020.

FABBS has supported strong funding for behavioral and brain sciences at every step of the process, submitting testimony to appropriations committees, visiting with key Hill staff and signing on to coalition letters in support of federal scientific agencies and the need to Raise the Caps.