Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, September 20, 2018

Congress Closes in on Final FY 2019 NIH Appropriations; DOE Budget Finished; Stop-Gap Funding Likely for NSF

As the end of the fiscal year (FY) approaches, Congress is sprinting to finalize a slate of appropriations bills to fund the government.

On September 18, the Senate approved a combined Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education/Department of Defense FY 2019 minibus appropriations package by a vote of 93-7. The text of the measure reflects an agreement by a joint House-Senate Conference Committee announced last week that would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $39.1 billion, a $2 billion increase over current funding. This is the same funding level proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June.

In addition to the funding level, NIH provisions in the measure largely resemble the Senate bill, including funding increases for Alzheimer’s research, the All of Us precision medicine initiative, and Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB). Across the Hill, the House is in recess this week and is expected to take up the measure the week of September 24.

Meanwhile, in back-to-back votes on September 12 and 13, the Senate and House voted to approve the first minibus appropriations measure by votes of 92-5 and 377-20. The first minibus combines the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Energy & Water appropriations bills, including funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, funded at $6.59 billion. An increase of $325 million over current funding, it includes increases for all six top-line programs. This measure is expected to be soon signed into law.

Unfortunately, the FY 2019 budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) will likely not be finalized before October 1. Due to the ongoing political battles over immigration policy, Congress is unlikely to take up appropriations related to the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security before the November midterm elections. Because the NSF budget sits within the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill, its fate is tied to these other programs.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education/Defense minibus contains text for a continuing resolution (CR), a stop-gap funding measure that would allow government agencies not funded in a minibus (including NSF) to remain open and operational at FY 2018 funding levels. This CR portion of the minibus, if enacted, would last until December 7.

A similar outcome may also be in store for the Department of Agriculture (USDA). A bicameral conference committee met on September 11 to reconcile House and Senate versions of a minibus that would include USDA, but no final agreement has been announced. Such a minibus would include appropriations for Interior-Environment, Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Financial Services.