Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, September 26, 2019

Appropriations Embroiled in Political Fights; Congress Eyes Stop-Gap to Keep Government Open

As political battles roil Washington, the fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations process has been caught up in contentious issues.

As previously reported, the Senate delayed consideration of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) spending bill over a Title X funding dispute. If enacted, that bill would provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a budget of $42.1 billion, a $3 billion increase over FY 2019.

On September 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for a procedural vote to quickly advance a package of four spending bills, including Labor-H and Defense. Unhappy with the spending allocations and other provisions proposed by Republican colleagues – including ongoing debates over immigration policy – Democrats opposed the move, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calling the vote decision a political “stunt.” The motion did not move forward after the 51-44 vote, failing to meet the 60-vote threshold.

Amidst these struggles, the Senate Appropriations Committee continued to consider bills. On September 24, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2020 proposal, providing the National Science Foundation (NSF) with $8.3 billion, a $242 million increase over FY 2019. At the subcommittee markup, CJS Subcommittee Chair Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) praised the bill, with Sen. Shaheen remarking that “the bill supports strong investments in research and development at the National Science Foundation.” The subcommittee approved the bill by unanimous consent and it is set to be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on September 26.

Two other funding bills, Energy & Water Development, and Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Rural Development, and Related Agencies, have also advanced through the Senate Appropriations Committee, though their ultimate fate is uncertain. The Energy & Water bill would fund the Department of Energy Office of Science at a level of $7.22 billion, $630 million above FY 2019 funding. The agriculture bill would provide the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) with $425 million, $10 million above the FY 2019 level.

Meanwhile, on September 19 by a vote of 301-123, the House passed a temporary funding measure, or continuing resolution (CR), that would keep the government open at current (FY 2019) spending levels through November 21. With the end of the fiscal year looming on September 30, the Senate is expected to take up the measure this week. The president has indicated he would sign the measure to avoid a government shutdown.