Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, May 23, 2019

House Appropriators Soldier On; Broader Budget Talks Begin

As the Memorial Day recess approaches, several House subcommittees continued consideration of appropriations measures. Meanwhile, congressional leadership planned a White House meeting to discuss a broader budget deal.

On May 17, the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bill. In total, the bill includes approximately $73.9 billion in discretionary spending authority, about a $9.8 billion increase over the FY 2019 level.

The bill provides a total of $8.64 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an increase of $564.14 million, or seven percent, above the FY 2019 enacted level. Of that total, the Research and Related Activities account, which funds the majority of NSF research programs, would be funded at $7.1 billion, an increase of $586.3 million. If enacted, this would be the largest single-year increase in the NSF budget since FY 2010. The subcommittee approved the bill on a voice vote.

At the markup, several representatives praised NSF. Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) said the agency supports “revolutionary advancements that contribute to our economy and solve tomorrow’s gravest problems.” Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) noted NSF’s role to “ensure that the United States remains the global leader in scientific research and STEM education.” Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) spoke highly of NSF diversity programs, especially provisions in the bill to enhance opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Other House appropriations subcommittees continue to put forward bills. On May 15, the House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies (E&W) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2020 appropriations bill. The Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC) would be funded at $6.87 billion, a $285 million increase above 2019 and $1.3 billion above the President’s requested budget. Overall, the proposed DOE budget is $37.1 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2019 and $5.6 billion above the President’s requested budget.

At press time, the CJS and E&W bills were set to be marked up by the full committee on May 21 and May 22, respectively.

With the looming need to raise the Budget Control Act spending caps – or face drastic cuts to defense and non-defense spending – congressional leaders met  with White House officials this week to continue budget discussions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Though there were no immediate breakthroughs, negotiators seemed optimistic that they were making progress towards a deal.

In addition to the budget caps, an agreement will have to be reached within the next few months to raise the debt limit. Without this agreement, the U.S. government risks defaulting on federal debt payments already incurred.