October 23, 2019
On Wednesday, October 23, the Senate began debate on the first set of their fiscal year 2020 spending bills, HR 3055. This minibus includes four bills – Agriculture (S 2522), Transportation-HUD (S 2520), Interior-Environment (S 2580) and Commerce-Justice-Science (S 2584) – all received unanimous approval from the Senate Appropriation Committee last month. While this might sound encouraging, the House and Senate will need to negotiate spending levels for the individual appropriations bills before conferencing bills. Disagreements, including about funding for a border wall, will make this a challenging task. Another test will come when the Senate moves to consider the next minibus (HR 2740), which includes the two most controversial bills – Defense (S 2474) and Labor-HHS-Education. According to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey: “They have to get a sign off from the White House, and there has been some difficulty in doing that.” Given these obstacles, it seems rather unlikely that we will see the enactment of any of the FY 2020 spending bills before the current stopgap runs out on November 21.
Continuing resolutions (CR) and uncertainty provide significant challenges to federal agencies supporting scientific research. This year, both the House and Senate included proposed increases to the NSF and NIH budgets and the House budget included an increase to IES, the Senate held it flat. A CR funds federal agencies at the level of the previous year. This flat funding is particularly irksome considering that back in August, the President approved a budget agreement that increased funding for FY 2020 over FY 2019 levels. Shortly after the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st, NIH released a notice, “NIH Operates Under a Continuing Resolution [CR]” indicating that ‘NIH will issue non-competing research grant awards at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Award.’
FABBS is actively encouraging Congress to pass a full year budget and working together with sister societies: Coalition for National Security Research, Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, and Coalition for National Science Funding, and Research!America.