In the final days of the 113th session of Congress, lawmakers finally passed a spending plan for fiscal year (FY) 2015. More than two months overdue, the comprehensive spending bill—also known as the CRomnibus—will provide increased funding for many scientific research and education programs, including the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Geological Survey. Other science programs within the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy Office of Science were spared deep budget cuts.
The Senate cleared the $1.1 trillion compromise on Sunday, several days after a close vote in the House of Representatives. In both chambers, some of the most liberal and conservative lawmakers opposed the bill. Liberals protested the inclusion of policy changes related to financial reform. Conservatives sought to confront President Obama on immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the bill “is not a perfect bill, but … there are no perfect bills. There are some people that are upset about things in this bill. To be candid with you, I’m kind of upset about some of the things in the bill. But this bill is so much better than a short-term CR [Continuing Resolution].”
If Congress had not passed H.R. 83, it was widely anticipated that lawmakers would have enacted a short-term spending measure that would have kicked the can on appropriations until the new session of Congress. That scenario would have likely resulted in deeper spending cuts.
Although the legislation included less than a one percent increase in spending above the FY 2014 level, many science programs will have more funding this year.
- National Science Foundation: $7.3 billion (+$172.3 million). The agency’s research portfolio will receive an additional $124.7 million and education programs will receive $19.5 million more. This will support 350 new competitive grants in 2015.
- Agricultural Research Service: $1.8 billion (+$55.1 million)
- Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: $325 million (+$8.5 million)
- Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion (same as FY 2014). The Biological and Environmental Research program will lose $18.2 million, which is a considerably smaller cut than the House had proposed.
- Environmental Protection Agency: $8.1 billion (-$60 million). The agency has been a perennial target for budget cuts. The compromise spending level is a significant improvement over the $717 million in cuts the House had sought. Science and Technology will lose $24.5 million.
- Forest Service Forest and Rangeland Research: $296.0 million (+$3.2 million)
- National Institutes of Health: $30.1 billion (+$149.7 million)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion (+$126.3 million)
- Smithsonian Institution: $819.5 million (+$14.5 million)
- U.S. Geological Survey: $1.0 billion (+$13.0 million). The bill includes $157.0 million for Ecosystems (+$4.2 million).
Another positive outcome for the scientific community is that the CRomnibus does not contain any policy riders that target social sciences. Some lawmakers have questioned and criticized the need for government support for research in the social sciences and had sought to block funding for some research grants.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
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