Created by on 5/17/2011 12:00:00 AM

Efforts to reach consensus on a deficit reduction plan and a fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget resolution (which will determine the overall federal spending level) continued as President Barack Obama met separately with Senate Democrats and Republicans at the White House while Vice President Joe Biden convened two meetings of the bi-partisan group he is leading. Although no agreement was reached and the talks are expected to continue for several more weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters that the discussions with the President were productive. Details also began to emerge about Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) forthcoming 2012 budget resolution which is likely to take a more balanced approach to deficit reduction than the plan passed by the House last month. Rumors are circulating that Senator Conrad’s budget will aim to reduce the deficit by four trillion over ten years and include two trillion in spending cuts (of which $600 billion would represent reduced payments for interest on the national debt).

Even though Congress still hasn’t agreed to a final FY 2012 funding level, the House Appropriations Committee is moving forward with consideration of the individual spending bills. On May 11th, Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) released the subcommittee and full committee mark-up schedule through August, as well as the 302(b) allocations. According to a press release from Rogers, he intends to complete consideration of nine of the 12 bills on the House floor by August 5th (the start of the summer recess) and will finish the remaining bills before September 30th (the beginning of the fiscal year). The 302(b) allocations are based on a discretionary spending cap of $1.019 trillion, a figure that is consistent with the parameters established by the House budget resolution. That amount will force significant reductions in funding below the FY 2011 levels for non-security programs. Chairman Rogers’s press release notes that the allocations are subject to change until the FY 2012 budget resolution is officially adopted and the Appropriations Committee approves the final funding levels. However, release of these numbers and the mark-up schedule is a clear indication that the FY 2012 appropriations process is moving forward in the House. Subcommittee and full committee mark-up dates are as follows (changes may be made depending on the House calendar):
Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Committee Mark-Up Schedule
Subcommittee: May 24th
Full Committee: May 31st
Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS)
Subcommittee: July 7th
Full Committee: July 13th
Energy & Water
Subcommittee: June 2nd
Full Committee: June 15th
Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS)
Subcommittee: July 26th
Full Committee: August 2nd
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs (VA)
Subcommittee: May 13th
Full Committee: May 23rd


Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Subcommittee Allocations


FY 2011 Funding Level
FY 2012 President’s Budget
FY 2012 302(b) Allocation
FY 2012 302(b) Allocation Compared to FY 2011
FY 2012 302(b) Allocation Compared to President’s Budget
$19.9 billion
$22.9 billion
$17.2 billion
$-2.7 billion
$-5 billion
$53.3 billion
$57.67 billion
$50 billion
$-3 billion
$-7.4 billion
Energy & Water
$31.6 billion
$36.5 billion
$30.6 billion
$-1 billion
(-3.2 %)
$-5.9 billion
$157.4 billion
$180.0 billion
$139 billion
$-18 billion
- $41.5 billion
(- 30%)
Military Construction, VA
$73.1 billion
$73.7 billion
$72.5 billion
$-615 million
$-1.26 billion

Based on the above schedule, the LHHS bill could not be considered on the House floor until sometime in September. The Labor-HHS 302(b) allocation is $139 billion–$18 billion (13 percent) less than FY 2011 and $41.5 billion (30 percent) below the Obama budget request. Although no decisions have been made yet about funding levels for specific programs, it will be a challenge to protect the National Institutes of Health from further cuts given the magnitude of the reduction to the overall bill.  
Funding for the National Science Foundation could also be in jeopardy given that the allocation for the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee is only $50 billion –three billion (six percent) less than FY 2011 and $7.4 billion (15 percent) below the Obama budget request. The relatively small (by comparison to the other bills) cut to the Military Construction,VA measure may spare the Medical and Prosthetics Research Program from big reductions.
In non-Appropriations related news, the Senate abandoned its efforts to pass a long-overdue renewal of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. After more than four weeks of debate, the bill (S 493) – authored by Small Business Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Scott Brown (R-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Carl Levin (D-MI)—was brought up for a cloture vote (a procedural step to end debate on a measure). The motion failed. Given that the SBIR and STTR programs expire on May 31st, it appears that another temporary authorization will be needed to give the Senate more time to reach an agreement on the legislation. S 493 included a proposal (that FASEB and others in the research community oppose) to increase the SBIR “set-aside” to 3.5 percent. An alternate SBIR/STTR reauthorization bill (HR 1425), that was drafted by Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and would continue the “set-aside” at the current level of 2.5 percent, was approved by the House Small Business Committee on May 11th.