Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, October 24, 2019

Impeachment Slows Progress on Appropriations; FASEB Signs Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Finish Budget

With the ongoing impeachment inquiry and the administration’s Syria policy roiling Washington, Congress made a bit of progress this week in finalizing the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget.

The Senate took up a domestic programs appropriations package that included four of the twelve spending bills: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (which includes the National Science Foundation); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (which includes the Department of Agriculture); Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. Each of these bills had strong bipartisan support when considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate voted to proceed with debate on the legislation, with passage likely next week.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has proposed that after passage of the first minibus the Senate consider a second spending package that would include both Defense as well as Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, which includes the National Institutes of Health. Democrats are opposed to taking up such a package, however, because of ongoing partisan disagreements over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the level of funding for health and education programs. Other Senators, including Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO), also expressed concerns that the Senate could not pass a Defense/Labor-H minibus given such disagreements.

By approving appropriations measures, the Senate wants to set up conference negotiations with the House to finalize the FY 2020 budget. But a major sticking point remains: though the House and Senate reached a deal in August on the overall discretionary spending level, they have yet to agree on allocating funds among the twelve spending bills. So despite this week’s Senate progress, Democrats and Republicans have not resolved contentious funding and policy issues including border wall funding.

The continuing resolution (CR) now funding the government expires November 21. Given the slow appropriations progress, Congress will likely have to pass another CR to keep the government open past late November. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) speculated this week that Congress may fund the government with a CR that lasts into calendar year 2020. House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressed her desire that the next CR not last that long and that she would continue to press for a quicker FY 2020 budget resolution.

In an effort to encourage Congress to finish FY 2020 appropriations as soon as possible with robust funding increases for scientific research, FASEB recently signed on to a letter organized by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research.