The House and Senate have agreed on an FY 2008 budget plan that they describe "provides significant increases for NSF and the DOE Office of Science, and fully funds the President's 2008 request for NASA at $17.3 billion." The "Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2008" was adopted yesterday in both chambers on a largely party line vote, and sets the stage for the appropriators to begin writing their funding bills.
A budget resolution sets spending parameters to guide appropriators. Since it also sets broad revenue (tax) objectives, it can be difficult to craft a plan that both the House and Senate agree upon. Last year (and two other years in the last five years), Congress failed to adopt a budget resolution, an early sign of the eventual failure of that Congress to pass almost all of the FY 2007 appropriations bills. The new House and Senate leadership made passage of the FY 2008 resolution a priority. The resolution, S Con Res 21, is non-binding, and does not need to be sent to President Bush for his signature.
One section of this 140-page budget document is of particular interest to NASA, NSF, and the DOE Office of Science. That section is entitled "General Science, Space, and Technology (250)." Function 250 includes funding for NASA (except aviation programs), the National Science Foundation, and the DOE Office of Science. A good Function 250 number is a prerequisite for a good outcome in the subsequent appropriations bills, although it is not a guarantee.
Both the House and Senate went into the conference crafting the final budget resolution with the same Function 250 number: $27.6 billion. This number, $27.615 billion, was adopted in the report, and is 10.1 percent or $2.536 billion over this year's level of $25.079 billion – a demonstration of the high priority Congress is giving to science and technology funding.
Included in the conference report on the budget resolution are fourteen "Sense of the House and Sense of the Congress" statements. One of these statements pertains to science and technology, and is based on the original House language. It reads, in part, "Sense of Congress on the Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America #1." "(a) It is the sense of Congress to provide sufficient funding that our Nation may continue to be the world leader in education, innovation and economic growth. . . . " "(b) America's greatest resource for innovation resides within classrooms across the country. The increased funding provided in this resolution will support important initiatives to educate 100,000 new scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and place highly qualified teachers in math and science K-12 classrooms.""(c) Independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. This resolution will put us on the path toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation, basic research in the physical sciences, and collaborative research partnerships; and toward achieving energy independence through the development of clean and sustainable alternative energy technologies."
With the passage of the budget resolution, the House Appropriations Committee can now start marking up the twelve FY 2008 appropriations bills. It has not wasted any time in doing so; the Homeland Security appropriations bill was marked up today. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) wants all but the Defense appropriations bill to be passed by the House in June, and has told House members to expect to be in Washington Monday through Friday. There is speculation that the Energy and Water Development and Interior (USGS) appropriations bills will be acted on early in the process. The Senate is expected to start writing their appropriations bills in early June. The goal is to have all twelve appropriations bills passed by October 1, the start of Fiscal Year 2008.