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Bullet policy · Nov 23, 2020

Senate Releases All FY 2021 Spending Bills, Omnibus Negotiations Begin

The Senate Committee on Appropriations released all twelve fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriation bills on November 10, 2020. The bills will forego Committee mark ups and debate within the Senate and instead serve as a starting point for bicameral negotiations on an omnibus spending agreement. The House passed ten out of twelve appropriation bills earlier this summer.

President Trump proposed cutting the budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by 6 percent in FY 2021. However, both the House and Senate bills would provide increases to the agency’s budget. NSF would receive $8.5 billion in funding under the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) spending bill, a $200 million increase from FY 2020. NSF’s core basic research portfolio would receive $6.9 billion, an increase of $170 million. Under the House bill, NSF funding would grow by $270 million, and its research account would receive a boost of $230 million.

While the House CJS spending bill would fund the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at a flat budget of $22.63 billion, the Senate proposes increasing its funding to $23.5 billion (+$866 million). Under the Senate bill, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $1.05 billion, an increase of $16 million from FY 2020, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive an additional $51 million for an overall budget of $5.40 billion in FY 2021.

The Senate Interior-Environment bill includes $35.8 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion below the amount allocated in the House bill. The Department of the Interior would receive $13.65 billion overall, $286 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $18 million less than the House’s allocation.

  • Budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would decrease by $5 million to $1.27 billion under the Senate bill. The House bill would boost funding for the Survey by 2 percent.
  • The Ecosystems Mission Area within USGS would receive $258 million, including $25 million for the Environmental Health Program, which the President had proposed eliminating. House Appropriators also rejected eliminating the Environmental Health Program and approved a flat budget of $23.5 million for it earlier this year.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.55 billion in FY 2021, $93.5 million less than FY 2020 and $29 million below the House bill.
  • The National Park Service would be funded at $3.12 billion, $255 million below FY 2020 and $102 million below the level approved by the House.
  • The Senate bill would allocate $1.3 billion to the Bureau of Land Management, $28 million below FY 2020 and in line with the House bill.
  • The Smithsonian Institution would receive $982 million under the Senate plan, a decrease of $65 million from FY 2020. The House approved a budget increase of 1 percent for the Smithsonian Institution.

Both Senate and House Appropriators have rejected the President’s proposal to slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 26 percent. The Senate Interior-Environment bill would provide a small increase of $28 million to the regulatory agency. The House version of the bill would provide an overall increase of $318 million, or 3.5 percent. The Science and Technology account within the EPA would receive $718 million under the Senate bill, $1.2 million above FY 2020 and $27 million below the House bill.

Under the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations bill, discretionary spending would increase by $1.43 billion for a total of $184.5 billion. The Senate plan does not include any emergency funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget would be augmented by 4.8 percent to $43.7 billion under the Senate proposal. The House bill, on the other hand, would provide $47 billion (+$5.5 billion) for NIH, including $5 billion in emergency appropriations to improve capacity at research institutions. Additionally, the Senate LHHS bill would allocate $4.2 billion (+$161 million) for public health preparedness and $7.88 billion (+$130 million) for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Institute of Museum and Library services would receive $257 million, an increase of $5 million over FY 2020.

The Senate Energy and Water Development spending bill would increase funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science by $26 million for a total of $7.026 billion. The House bill would boost the office’s budget by $50 million. The Senate bill would also reject the President’s “short-sighted proposal to terminate the Advanced Research Project Agency—Energy (ARPA-E)” and instead increase investment in the program by $5 million for a total of $430 million in FY 2021.

The Senate’s spending bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies provides more than $3.3 billion for agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). ARS would receive $1.51 billion in FY 2021, a decrease of $97 million or 6 percent compared to FY 2020. The House bill would shrink the budget for ARS by 10 percent. NIFA, which partners with academic institutions to conduct research, education, and extension activities, would receive $1.54 billion (+$12 million) under the Senate plan and $1.57 billion (+$48 million) under the House plan. Both chambers would augment funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by $10 million to $435 million.

Congress passed a continuing resolution in September to keep the government operational in FY 2021, which started on October 1. To avoid a government shutdown, all twelve appropriations bills must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President before the stopgap funding expires on December 11. Negotiations between Senate and House Appropriators on an omnibus funding package incorporating all twelve appropriation bills are currently ongoing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he would like to pass both FY 2021 appropriations and a “highly targeted” pandemic relief measure before the year ends.