Despite the fact that Fiscal Year 2012 began more than six weeks ago on October 1st, Congress continues on a slow path to agreement on spending bills for the year. The process has gained some traction of late and it is possible that spending bills will advance to the president in clusters referred to as “mini-buses.” Each mini-bus will contain funding for several agencies not traditionally tied to one another. The first cluster to pass congress will likely be a combination of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) spending bill, Transport-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill and the Agriculture bill.
This week, House and Senate negotiators came to agreement on a FY12 CJS-THUD-Agriculture mini-bus (spending bill). Of interest to the biomedical research community is a 2.5% increase (over FY11) for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The agreement funds NSF at $7 billion, $173 billion more than FY11, but far short of the President’s request for $7.7 billion for the agency for FY12. Given the magnitude of budget cuts currently being discussed on Capitol Hill, the modest increase for NSF is being welcomed by many in the research community. The mini-bus still needs to be voted on by both chambers of Congress, but it is expected to pass and move on to President Obama’s desk.
Attached to the CJS-THUD-Ag mini-bus is a resolution that would provide continued temporary funding for the agencies yet to receive a FY12 allocation from the appropriations process. The continuing resolution will last until December 16th, allowing Congress additional time to fund the remaining agencies.
The path forward for the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, which funds agencies critical to the AADR community such as NIH/NIDCR and CDC, remains unclear. However, it is expected that Congress will pass permanent FY12 spending provisions for most agencies by Christmas.
On a separate but related track, the Super-Committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years appears to be deadlocked. The group has exactly one week to put forward a plan or risk automatic across-the-board cuts to federal agencies -likely felt in FY13 and beyond.