The Road Ahead for Appropriations

May 29, 2013

by Paula Skedsvold

FY 2014 may prove to be as challenging as any other—perhaps worse. Coming on the tail end of the implementation of sequestration in March 2013–which advocates are still trying to turn back, but which appears increasingly unlikely– the top-line numbers, at least in the House, are dreadful. 

The Appropriations Committees allocate spending levels, called 302(b)s, for each of the twelve spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee is starting from a top-line number of $967 billion, an amount that reflects caps on discretionary spending under the Budget Control Act and sequestration. Their allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which funds NIH and IES, is $121.8 billion, an 18.6% drop from the already low FY 2013 post-sequestration level. For the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which funds NSF, the allocation is 0.4% below the FY 2013 post-sequestration level. Spending for specific programs in the budget will be determined later during subcommittee markup of the bills.

On the House side, increases are provided for the Defense, Homeland Security, Military Construction-VA, and the Legislative Branch bills. Despite the cuts, the House Appropriations Chairman, Harold Rogers (R-KY) has stated that he hopes there will be a budget compromise that can “undo the damaging sequestration law.” 

On the other side of the dome, the Senate Appropriations Committee, will be marking up its spending bills at a higher level. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has stated that she will assume that sequestration will be repealed and use a top-line number of $1.058 trillion in making allocations. 

Although both chambers have passed budget resolutions, there has been no conference to reconcile the two vastly different numbers. Given this and the different starting points in allocations, we may again be faced with a continuing resolution to fund government in the Fall. At about the same time, the debate on the debt ceiling will be occurring (again), so discussions about a grand bargain for addressing fiscal challenges will include it as well. Brace yourself – it looks like another rollercoaster year for science.