Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, October 28, 2021

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Nine Spending Bills

The remaining nine Senate fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills were posted on October 18. Even with some provisions for Republicans, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that “a successful appropriations process rests on trust and bipartisan cooperation like we had in recent years under the Shelby/Leahy framework. Regrettably, we’re a long way from that now.  If Democrats want full-year appropriations bills, they must abandon their go-it-alone strategy and come to the table to negotiate. We need a topline agreement that does not shortchange our nation’s defense and a willingness to set aside partisan politics…”

No markups are expected for these bills and earnest negotiations will need to occur if the country is to avoid another continuing resolution beyond December 3. Congress is, however, focused on finalizing the terms of the reconciliation bill in the Senate. It has an expected date of the end of October for completion in the Senate before the House can take it up along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The White House’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) received $2.4 billion in the Senate version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill, which is less than the $3 billion proposed in the House.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) topline, which includes ARPA-H, was $47.9 billion, an increase of $5 billion but less than the House recommendation of $49.4 billion. The Senate Committee said that with this investment, it will have provided a 58 percent increase for NIH over the past 7 years. However, FASEB and the larger scientific and biological research community in September rallied for at least $46.4 billion for the base NIH budget in FY 2022, which excludes non basic research that ARPA-H would provide if Congressionally authorized. Although this has not occurred yet, House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced her bill to establish and authorize it. Her bill provides $3 billion and places ARPA-H under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rather than NIH. A hearing is expected on this new entity later this year.

As for the National Science Foundation, which supports research and education in all major scientific and engineering disciplines through grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and other forms of assistance, it received $9.5 billion. This recommendation is $1 billion or 12 percent above the FY 2021 enacted level and $683 million below the president’s budget request. The committee also supported the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships within the Research and Related Activities section of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill,  with up to $865 million. This directorate would help the United States stay ahead of international competition in key areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and climate science. Meanwhile, the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), previously known as the Endless Frontier Act, which was designed to advance America’s global leadership in science and technology and support efforts to outcompete China in key technology areas, is still awaiting a conference with the House.