Congress continues to work through its appropriations processes in an effort to pass all 12 fiscal year (FY) 2010 spending bills, including the various measures that fund biological science research. As of 9 October 2009, 8 days after the end of FY 2009, all 12 appropriations bills had been passed by the House of Representatives and 7 of 12 bills had cleared by the Senate. Only the Legislative Branch, Energy and Water, and Agriculture bills have made it through the conference process, and only the Legislative Branch appropriations have been completed.

Both House and Senate bills contain significant spending increases for most science agencies. The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Act (HR 3183) has been approved by the House and Senate, but still requires Senate approval of the Conference Committee’s final report before it can be sent to the President. Although the final numbers fall short of the President’s $34.9 billion request, the $33.9 billion bill would provide $604.3 million for biological and environmental research and $20.7 million for the Science Workforce Development Program, both of which would be increases from FY 2009 funding levels.

Both chambers have approved the Conference Report for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Act (HR 2997). This is the only bill with funding for scientific research to make it this far through the appropriations process. The $121.2 billion bill is less than the President’s request of $123.9 billion. It designates $262.5 million for competitive agricultural research grants through the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which would be a significant increase from the $201.5 million FY 2009 appropriation. The Conference Report would also provide $983,000 for rangeland research grants, and $3.85 million for graduate research grants.

The House appropriations bill (HR 2996) for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forest Service and Related Agencies has been approved and would provide $32.3 billion for these agencies. Within this amount, $849.6 million would be directed to science and technology within EPA, $308.6 million for forest and rangeland research within the Forest Service, $1.105 billion for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and $1.249 billion for resource management within the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Senate recently passed a $32.1 billion version of this bill, which would provide $842.8 million for science and technology within EPA, $307 million for forest and rangeland research within the Forest Service, $1.104 billion for USGS, and $1.244 billion for resource management within FWS. During deliberations on this measure, several amendments were offered in an attempt to limit EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, these amendments were defeated.

The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriation bill has not been approved by the Senate. The President’s request for CJS, which includes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other science agencies, was $64.6 billion. At $64.5 billion, the House-passed bill falls just short of the President’s request. The measure would include $13.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, $6.936 billion for NSF ($108 million below the President’s request, but $446 million above FY 2009), and $4.6 billion ($129 million above the level sought by the President, but $187 million above FY 2009) for NOAA. The House bill also includes $1.4 billion for NASA to launch space-based and suborbital sensors to study climate change and the global environment. The bill includes $1 billion for science education, and over $2 billion to study global climate change. In the Senate, the CJS bill has been approved by the Appropriations Committee and full Senate debate started during the week of 5-8 October 2009. The Senate version currently totals $67.49 billion and would include $6.916 billion for NSF and $4.77 billion for NOAA. An amendment proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), which is still pending, would block funding for NSF’s competitive grant program for political science research. Coburn was reported to say that the political science projects are wasteful and the foundation should focus its research on “true science.” NSF political science research has, among other things, improved understanding of village democracy in China, international conflict forecasting, and ethnic politics in Africa.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (HR 3293) would provide funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). HR 3293 has been passed by the House, which recommended an appropriation of $31.3 billion for NIH, $941.7 million above the FY 2009 appropriation and $500 million above the President’s budget request. Included in these amounts would be $520 million for the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and $695 million for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), both of which are above the budget request. The Senate version of the bill has been approved by the Appropriations Committee and would provide the President’s request of $30.8 billion for NIH.

 


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