Budget Talks Dominating Capitol Hill

Published on May 23, 2011 by Jonathan Nurse

This week, the Senate is likely to consider two very different FY12 budget plans, one offered by House Republicans and the other by President Obama. The votes are largely symbolic, as neither is likely to pass. Senate Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats in the chamber contend that the President’s Budget Request (PBR) for FY12 does not do enough to cut the deficit, while much of the Democratic caucus argues that the House budget blueprint cuts too heavily from domestic discretionary spending.

On May 11th, the House Appropriations Committee released FY12 allocations for the 12 bills that fund the federal government. Under the House plan, the FY12 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill, which includes NIH, would receive an $18 billion cut (approximately 12% below the FY11 level) or funding at roughly the FY04 level. While these initial allocations do not specify cuts at the agency/program level, it is clear that most would incur significant hardship if the House allocations come to fruition. The House budget framework would ultimately result in significant cuts to federally funded research programs, as the budget targets provided do not allow for an alternate outcome.

While the Senate debates the House budget resolution and the PBR, Vice President Biden continues to meet with a bipartisan group of Senators who are seeking to develop a compromise budget position. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad articulated late last week that he will delay movement on a FY12 budget resolution until the Biden-led group concludes its work.

Members of the AADR community are encouraged to reach out to their Members of Congress with e-mails, letters, and telephone calls that articulate the need for sustained investments in research. The AADR Action Center offers draft letters, and contact information, for easy communication with Congress.