Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, December 3, 2020

Appropriations Negotiations Continue; FASEB Advocates for Final FY 2021 Numbers for Key Agencies; New Biden Administration Vows to Reflect America

Congressional negotiations are continuing on the exact terms of the final fiscal year (FY) 2021 government funding bills. One area of keen dispute has been over veterans healthcare funding. According to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the $12.5 billion for veterans medical care should not be classified as emergency spending that is exempt from budget caps because it would breach the two-year budget agreement in H.R. 3877, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, and allow appropriators to spend more money on nondefense programs. Senate Republicans believed this issue was resolved in the spring, but McCarthy has always opposed.

Just before Thanksgiving, chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed on allocations for the 12 funding bills to carve up $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2021. However, with less than 2 weeks left in this Congress, it is unclear if the bills will be combined in an omnibus package and finalized by December 11 when the current stopgap resolution funding the government (PL 116-159) is set to expire. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) asked House members to consider remaining in Washington, D.C., to be available to vote on an omnibus package as soon as it comes to the floor. Another continuing resolution funding the government until December 18 is possible especially if negotiations on the omnibus package are nearly completed over the next week to provide a little more time to finalize the package.

Meanwhile, any sort of a COVID-19 stimulus package before the end of this Congress remains in limbo. However, there are growing signs of Democratic leaders believing a package smaller than $2.2 trillion could be acceptable as unemployment continues and coronavirus cases soar. FASEB signed letters organized by the Coalition for National Science Funding and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coalition urging Congress to advance the appropriations process and provide COVID-19 emergency funding. We are also supporting the Ad Hoc Medical Group’s transition letter to the Biden administration, which lays out foundational principles to support research activities and outlines the economic and medical benefits of the National Institutes of Health, the largest funder of biomedical research.

Moving from legislative activities to the Executive transition, the General Services Administration also acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory for the presidency over the holiday. This recognition allows the expedient commencement of the presidential transition Congressional leaders sought. As he continues efforts to appoint his incoming administration, beginning with his chief of staff, Cabinet picks, and leaders of tier one agencies, Biden’s administration will cast a wide net for experienced applicants representing the diversity of America. For example, plan to see more women in his administration holding key positions of power. To learn more about the Biden transition, visit BuildBackBetter.com.