Despite a logjam preventing progress on most of the annual appropriations bills, the Senate Oct. 31 passed in a bipartisan fashion with a vote of 84-9 its first fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills. While the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) appropriations bill remains in limbo, the Senate-passed “minibus” package includes four noncontroversial funding measures: Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS); Interior and Environment; Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
The final vote was taken on H.R. 3055 as amended, with the amendment, introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), replacing the House-passed spending bills’ text with the comparable Senate Appropriations Committee-passed bills.
Included in the Senate-passed package is funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the CJS spending bill. The Senate bill includes $8.32 billion for NSF, a $24 million (3%) increase over FY 2019, with $6.77 billion (a $41 million or 6.37% increase) dedicated to research and related activities. The House-passed bill includes $8.64 billion for FY 2020 (a $57 million or 7% increase over FY 2019), with $7.11 billion (a $74 million or 11.7% increase) reserved for research and related activities.
The AAMC Oct. 25 joined a Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) letter urging leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to pass the FY 2020 CJS bill before the Nov. 21 continuing resolution (CR) deadline and to “make a significant funding increase for NSF a high priority.” The letter continues, “Research supported by the agency is vital to the public interest and essential if our country is to stay at the forefront of scientific progress and the cutting edge of technology and innovation.”
Despite the Senate’s bipartisan passage of the first four-bill measure, the Senate, by a party line vote of 51-41, was unable to garner enough votes to begin consideration of a second spending package of four bills (H.R. 2740), including the Labor-HHS-Ed bill. Much work remains before final agreements can be made on any spending bills by both houses of Congress, as disagreements still remain about funding for a border wall and top-line allocations for all 12 spending bills [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 25].
With less than three weeks until expiration of the CR, there is little clarity on next steps to prevent a government shutdown. While it is expected that Congress will consider a new CR, Appropriations Committee leaders are proposing that the next CR should extend into 2020, while Congressional leadership appears to be aiming for a deadline in December to force movement on annual spending.