Aligning Different Proposals
The House can be expected to mark up spending bills at the lower Ryan/Republican caps compared with the higher BCA caps the Senate’s Democratic leaders will use. Both chambers will have to reconcile how much they’ll spend, let alone how much each agency will receive.
“What you’re going to see is appropriations bills coming out of the House that will look very austere compared to FY 2012 funding levels and even compared to the president’s FY ’13 budget request. And while the Senate is going to be tight, it won’t be as tight as the House,” Zeitzer said. “It’s certainly going to make the process as chaotic as it has ever been.”
The House and Senate appropriations committees and their various subcommittees will nonetheless begin marking up their own versions of spending bills, Zeitzer added: “Whether anything goes to the floor seems to be a big mystery. I’m not anticipating that any of the bills will go to the floor, except maybe some of the less controversial ones,” such as the one setting funding for the legislative branch.
The divide between the chambers on overall spending limits will likely lead to a longer delay for a final budget to emerge than was the case last year. For one thing, 2012 is a presidential as well as congressional election year, which discourages dealmaking as the parties focus on one-upping each other. For another, legislative leaders were determined during FY ’12 not to take as much time crafting a spending plan as they did during FY ’11, when the budget emerged almost halfway through that fiscal year.
“Despite the recent budget-related activities in the House and the Senate, the different spending caps likely will complicate efforts to proceed with the annual spending bills,” Moore remarked. “Congress is not expected to complete its appropriations work until after the November elections.”
Moore’s assessment has been echoed by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). “In all likelihood, Congress will not make any funding decisions until the ‘lame duck’ Congress that follows the election and maybe even beyond that,” ASPET has commented.
Ryan’s HCR 112 also called for six House committees to identify a total $261 billion in spending cuts to be carried out over 11 years. That action would supplant the BCA’s “sequestration” process, through which across-the-board reductions in nondefense discretionary spending would take effect in January 2013 unless $1.2 trillion in cuts are made. A “supercommittee” of House and Senate members tried, but failed, last fall to agree on what cuts to make.
For NIH, sequestration would cut almost $2.4 billion from the agency’s current $30.702 billion budget, based on the measure’s 7.8% across-the-board spending reductions. But those reductions apply agency-wide, not to individual programs, allowing NIH to protect funding for key programs by cutting what it deems of lesser importance.
“We’re in a perfect storm, so to speak, a very concerning storm,” Retzlaf noted. “That is, we have the sequestration, which is hanging over our heads. It has to happen, it’s in the law, so something has to be done to stop that. Then you’ve got this House budget committee, which has decided to go $18 billion below the budget agreement of last year, which could make any kind of increase for NIH that much more challenging, because there are fewer dollars to go around. Then you’ve got the fact that we’ve gone one decade with flatline funding for NIH. And you’re talking about between 17, 18, nearly 20 percent cut in NIH budget over the past 10 years when factoring in inflation.
“Past investments that congress and the administration have made to NIH really have put us into a tremendous position today to make a major difference for people suffering from numerous diseases including cancer,”Retzlaf added. “And for us to unwind those prior investments just does not make sense.” Even President Obama’s proposed budget for FY 2013 would freeze NIH spending. There have been numerous efforts to increase NIH’s budget since the President came out with his budget. Final numbers, however, may be months away.
Which side are you closer to in terms of the FY 2013 budget?
Rep. Paul Ryan’s Proposal
President Barack Obama’s Proposal