Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Congress Passes Bill to Raise the Budget Caps; Fiscal Year 2018 Spending Decisions Expected to Be Finalized By Late March; FASEB Issues E-Action Alert

After months of negotiations and two brief government shutdowns, congressional leaders announced February 9 that they finally reached an agreement to raise the Budget Control Act defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) caps by approximately $300 billion over fiscal years (FY) 2018 and 2019.

News of the breakthrough was a relief to FASEB and others in the scientific community, who raised alarm for nearly a year that the spending caps were too low to accommodate adequate growth for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other federal research agencies. FASEB issued a statement in early February urging congressional leaders to redouble their efforts to renegotiate the spending limits.

The agreement (HR 1892, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018) increases NDD spending by $63 billion in FY 2018 and $68 billion in FY 2019. Defense related programs would receive an additional $80 billion in FY 2018 and $85 billion in FY 2019. In addition to raising the budget caps, the bill temporarily extends government funding through another continuing resolution (CR) that expires March 23.

summary of the budget caps agreement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also noted that $2 billion is included for NIH research over two years. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH, confirmed the commitment to biomedical research and added, “As long as we can get to an omnibus and pass it, NIH is going to do very well.”

The Senate approved HR 1892 by a vote of 71-28. Shortly after the Senate vote, the House passed the bill 240-186. President Trump signed the legislation into law February 9.

The additional CR included in HR 1892 gives Congress six weeks to determine how to divide the increased spending among all federal agencies and programs. This process will be led by the 12 appropriations subcommittees, which will combine the individual spending bills into an omnibus package. The omnibus will then have to be passed by the House and Senate and approved by the president.

Work on the omnibus package is expected to begin immediately. Each of the appropriations subcommittees will receive a funding allocation that reflects the increased caps. Once the new allocations have been determined, decisions about specific spending levels for each agency will be made by subcommittee members. The FY 2018 bills approved by the appropriations committees last fall will likely be the starting point for negotiations, including the $2 billion increase for NIH that was recommended by the Senate.

To help ensure the NIH increase envisioned in the budget caps agreement becomes a reality, FASEB issued an e-action alert directing advocates to urge their members of Congress to support an omnibus appropriations bill that includes higher funding levels for all of the science agencies. FASEB will also send a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership advocating for a total increase of $2 billion for NIH, as well as additional funding for NSF, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Energy Office of Science.