Outlook for Science Funding Uncertain as Deadline to Finish FY 2014 Spending Bills Approaches
Created by on 07/25/2013

By Jennifer Zeitzer

Despite bipartisan support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation, it is unclear if the bills funding these agencies will be brought to the House and Senate floor for a final vote. To date, the House has passed only three of its 13 appropriations bills (Energy and Water Development; Homeland Security; and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs). 
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) expressed his frustration with the slow pace of the House’s consideration of the fiscal year (FY) 2014 spending bills. Acknowledging the progress the Committee has made in approving the individual spending bills, Rogers said, “we have six bills lined up, waiting to get time on the floor. But it has been a tough chore. I don't know why the powers that be don't recognize that the power of the purse actually gets things done. And this Committee has proved that it can get things done.”
One measure still awaiting action is the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill. The House Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee announced it would consider the bill on July 25, but abruptly cancelled the mark-up only 24 hours before the scheduled meeting. With a total spending limit that is approximately 20 percent below the current level, House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) hinted in a Politico editorial that the LHHS measure is not expected to provide much good news for NIH. Noting that the House is proceeding with funding bills that assume sequestration will continue in FY 2014, Lowey wrote, “The effects on medical research, schools, job training, clean air and water, and diplomacy and development will be devastating.”
The Senate, which is even further behind schedule than the House, voted this week to begin debate on the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bill – the first FY 2014 spending measure to make it to the floor. Following consideration of the T-HUD measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters that, unlike in previous years, the Senate may consider the other bills funding domestic programs ahead of those supporting funding for the military and homeland security. “We are not going to be gamed by having the military programs funded at a much higher level than the Head Start Program, or NIH,” Reid said.
Because of Congress’s upcoming recess (August 5 through September 6), lawmakers have only three weeks upon their return to finish the FY 2014 spending bills before the start of the new fiscal year  on October 1. As a result, there has been a growing realization that a continuing resolution (CR) will be needed to keep government agencies operating this fall. Passage of a CR is likely to be contentious, and has Senator Reid warning the House that the Senate will not be forced into accepting a stopgap spending bill in the absence of finished appropriations bills and urging the House to replace the sequestration spending cuts with an alternative deficit reduction plan.

In contrast to Senator Reid’s remarks,  House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) speculated that a CR would continue spending at the current, post-sequester level and that it would not be difficult to negotiate a final, overall FY 2014 spending level. Last week, Speaker Boehner noted that while conversations have yet to take place between House and Senate leaders about a CR, the law dictates that spending levels adhere to the limits established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.