For the 15th straight time, Congress will allow a new fiscal year to begin on October 1 without having enacted all of the regular appropriations bills needed to keep the government running.
Very few of the 12 regular spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2012 are close to enactment, which also amounts to something of a pattern. Not since 1996 has Congress cleared more than four full-year spending bills before the new fiscal year began.
The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, which funds numerous federal health programs such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is among the bills that have not yet seen any action in either the House or Senate. The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee canceled a planned September 9 markup of its draft bill and has not rescheduled it.
As a result of the looming deadline, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), has scheduled action the week of September 19 on a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government operating, while the appropriations process advances. The Senate will probably consider the measure soon after. The early action will be needed because both chambers are scheduled to be in recess the final week of September, and the CR will need to be enacted before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
Last night, the House Appropriations Committee filed with the Rules Committee a continuing resolution (CR, H.J.Res. 79) to provide federal funding past September 30. The committee’s statement and the text of the CR are available on the House website. The CR funds the federal government at a rate of $1.043 trillion, the amount mandated in the Budget Control Act of 0211, which is nearly $7 billion below the current year. As a result, funding in the CR is reduced by 1.409 percent from the FY 2011 levels. The CR extends until midnight, November 18, 2011.
Congressional leaders have not yet decided how long the CR will run and how high to set spending levels for government departments and agencies, though House Appropriations Committee staff have previously indicated that a CR may possibly extend through November 18 to allow time for final negotiations on a final spending package. In terms of funding, CRs frequently permit agencies to operate at their prior year level, or slightly lower. Lawmakers may set the level to approximate the $1.043 trillion cap on FY 2012 discretionary spending put forth in the debt limit law, which is slightly lower than the FY 2011 total. This means that many federal programs, including NIH, may receive cuts beyond those that were enacted as part of the FY 2011 spending compromise earlier this year.
As Congress continues to formulate the details of the FY 2012 budget, funding for the NIH remains in jeopardy. All Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents about the need to adequately fund NIH. To contact your Representative and Senators quickly and easily, please use the email template offered online at the ASH Advocacy Center where you can quickly and easily send a message to Congress. The Society encourages you to personalize the letter, providing examples of why NIH funding is important to you and your research.
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