After returning from its month-long recess, the Senate wasted no time in getting to work on fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations. The quick start to the current legislative period is necessary, given that the new fiscal year starts on 1 October.

On 7 September, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its allocations for the 12 bills that collectively fund the federal government. Overall, discretionary spending would be $1.043 trillion in FY 2012, $7 billion less than this year. Defense spending would be the same as in FY 2011, but all other areas of spending would be reduced slightly.

Two Senate subcommittees also approved spending plans for the agencies under their jurisdiction. The Department of Energy Office of Science would receive $4.843 billion, the same as FY 2011, despite cuts to the top-line budget for the department. This is $43 million more than the House-passed bill.

Research programs at the Department of Agriculture would receive $2.309 billion, $39 million less than this year. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative — a competitive extramural research grants programs — would receive $266 million, a $1.5 million increase. This is $36.5 million more than the House approved for the program.

To date, the Senate has passed one of the 12 annual appropriations bills. The House of Representatives has passed half of the bills. Given the short legislative window until the beginning of the next fiscal year and anticipated partisan bickering, it is extremely unlikely that Congress will finish FY 2012 appropriations on time. As in past years, it is expected that Congress will have to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government until it completes its appropriations work.


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