Congress has moved ahead in its efforts to pass an appropriations bill supplementing current year funding, and in starting the process of drafting bills for FY 2009.
CURRENT YEAR FUNDING:
There has been uncertain movement on Capitol Hill to increase funding this year for the National Science Foundation, NASA, the DOE Office of Science, and the National Institutes of Health.
The Senate approved by a very wide margin an FY 2008 supplemental appropriations bill that was drafted by its Appropriations Committee. Under this $193 billion bill, $1.2 billion would be included for the four science agencies. Click here for further information on this bill.
The House Appropriations Committee has drafted its own version of this legislation that was considered by the full House in May. Some portions of this bill were passed by the House while another was not. The House bill did not include science funding. The House leadership hopes to bring the bill to the floor again next week.
It is unclear if the House and Senate will be able to agree on a bill that will include the science funding. House leaders are reluctant to including much domestic program funding in this bill to fund war-fighting operations. By keeping the supplemental funding bill in the neighborhood of what President Bush has requested, the House leadership hopes to pass a bill that the President will not oppose.
Earlier this week, letters were delivered to the House and Senate leadership urging the preservation of the science funding increases in the Senate version of the bill. Calling these amounts "the bare minimum Congress should provide for basic research and math and science education at a time when America's economic competitiveness is increasingly challenged," the two letters were signed by more than 70 chief executive officers of scientific associations, universities, and corporations. Among those signing these letters were the Executive Directors of the American Institute of Physics and the Optical Society of America (an AIP Member Society.)
Copies of the letters can be read here under "Task Force Correspondence."
NEXT YEAR'S FUNDING:
For the first time since 2000, the House and Senate have agreed on a spending and revenue blueprint that will guide the appropriations process. Under this $3 trillion nonbinding budget resolution that was passed yesterday, total discretionary spending is $21 billion higher than that set by President Bush. A disagreement about such spending was the major reason why the appropriations bills were passed so late, and why science funding was less than anticipated last year. It is not expected that President Bush will sign any of the appropriations bills that this Congress will send him. It is not even clear if the Senate will be able to pass any of the appropriations bills. It is widely acknowledged that a temporary funding bill - a continuing resolution - will maintain current year funding well into FY 2009 (which starts on October 1.)
Agreement on the budget resolution does allow the appropriations committees to start the drafting process. The House Appropriations Committee just released its tentative schedule for its subcommittee mark-ups:
June 11: Interior and the Environment (USGS)
June 12: Commerce, Justice and Science (NSF, NASA, NIST)
June 17: Energy and Water (Department of Energy)
June 19: Labor, Health and Education (Department of Education, NIH)
July 16: Defense
The full House Appropriations Committee will consider each bill approximately one week after the subcommittee drafts its bill, at which time the committee report will be available.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has not announced its schedule.