On 19 February, the House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011. If enacted, the bill would cut $61 billion relative to FY 2010 appropriations. The reductions affect nearly all portions of the federal government, although homeland security is less affected than other areas. HR 1 passed the House along party lines by a vote of 235 to 186. No Democrats supported the measure, but three Republicans opposed it.

Debate on the measure dominated the agenda of the House for days while over one hundred amendments to the bill were considered. The debate went well past midnight for four successive nights. A summary of some of the amendments that relate to federal science agencies are presented below:

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) offered an amendment to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The amendment was agreed to with the support of all but two Republicans.

  • House Science Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) won his bid to stop the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from putting funding towards a planned climate service.
  • The House agreed to an amendment from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) that would bar the government from spending money on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to decrease funding for science and technology at EPA by $64.1 million.
  • Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) offered a failed amendment to decrease funding for resource management at the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by $7.5 million.
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to increase funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture by $5 million was not accepted.
  • Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to decrease funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $50 million.

Additionally, conservative lawmakers pushed to cut spending even further. An amendment offered by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) would have cut an additional $22 billion by reducing funding across the entire government by 5.5 percent, with some exemptions. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 147-281, with a minority of Republicans joining a unified Democratic party in opposition.

The spending cuts proposed in HR 1 could be very detrimental to federal science programs. One analysis of the impacts to the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicates that the agency’s budget would be cut by 5.2 percent. Research and Related Activities would decrease by 2.6 percent, the net impacts of which could be 500 fewer awards and 5,500 fewer researchers, students, and teachers supported than in 2010. The Education and Human Resources Directorate would be reduced by 17 percent, which could result in 235 fewer awards and 4,400 less people supported. A 53 percent reduction is proposed for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. If enacted, the result could be schedule delays in the construction of networks of ocean observatories and environmental sensors.

The House passage of HR 1 is just the first step towards enactment of an appropriations bill for FY 2011. The Senate must still act on the measure. Although Democratic leaders in the Senate plan to reduce spending in FY 2011, some have called the House’s cuts excessive. Leadership from the two chambers of Congress must now compromise to reach a level of spending that is agreeable to both parties, or face a shutdown of the federal government.

The two chambers of Congress have been in negotiations for a shorter term Continuing Resolution (CR) that would fund the government for two weeks beyond the expiration of the current CR on 4 March. Over the weekend, House Republicans signaled their receptiveness to smaller spending cuts while lawmakers work out a deal on spending for the remainder of FY 2011. The GOP plan would cut $4 billion by cutting earmarks and speeding up the elimination of programs President Obama proposed to terminate in his 2012 budget.

 


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