Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, July 25, 2019

Negotiators Announce Deal on Budget Caps, Debt Ceiling; House Passes Legislation Aimed at Curbing Sexual Harassment in Science

On Monday, July 22, congressional leadership and the White House announced they have reached a deal to raise the Budget Control Act spending caps for fiscal years (FYs) 2020 and 2021. The deal would also suspend the debt ceiling until July 2021, avoiding a default on U.S. government debt.

The deal, entitled the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, would raise the topline figure for defense discretionary spending in fiscal year (FY) 2020 to $737 billion, an increase of $21 billion over current levels. This amount includes supplementary defense funding provided in the “Overseas Contingency Operation” account. Total non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2020 – which includes science agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation along with myriad government programs – would rise to $632 billion, an increase of about $27 billion.

The non-defense total also includes an extra $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census. In FY 2021, the analogous defense and non-defense spending limits would rise to $740.5 billion and $634.5 billion respectively. The agreement would also suspend the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021. The bill includes $77.4 billion in measures to help offset its cost, including extensions of certain customs fees and cuts to mandatory programs.

Though the White House has stated its support for the deal, it remains uncertain if the President will sign it. Leaders of the House Freedom caucus and others on the political right have expressed opposition to the bill. Several scientific organizations, including FASEB, issued statements supporting it.

Given that the House is set to begin its summer recess July 26, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been pushing to get the bill on the floor as soon as possible. After consideration by the House Committee on Rules, the bill was set to be put to a vote by the full House on July 25. The Senate will not adjourn until August 2 and will likely vote on the bill next week.

If the agreement on spending levels is enacted, Congress will have to hash out actual appropriations bills to fund the government in FY 2020, which begins October 1. The House has already passed 10 of 12 appropriations bills as a series of “minibus” packages, while the Senate has yet to mark up any; Senate appropriators had been waiting for a budget deal before moving their process forward.

In other legislative news, the House passed H.R. 36, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019. FASEB previously endorsed this bill.