Fiscal debates: Another one down, a few more to go

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today that would suspend the debt ceiling until May 18. The bill did not have any spending cuts which some Republicans had previously requested. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D, Nevada) has said the Senate will pass the bill and President Obama has said he would not oppose this bill.

This is good news for scientists because it temporarily takes the specter of the government defaulting on its debt off the table. A default could have increased interest and unemployment rates which would have reduced the amount of money the government could devote to research funding.

This leaves sequestration as the next debate over fiscal policy. The fiscal-cliff deal struck at the beginning of the year postponed sequestration until March 1. This deal also made some cuts to discretionary spending. However, the language in all of these deals leaves some question as to the actual dollar amount that the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation will need to cut from their budgets should sequestration occur.

After sequestration, the debate over the federal budget for FY13 will be next. The resolution that funds the government expires on March 27, and both parties will be looking for programs to cut in order to reduce governmental spending. Due to Congress’ seeming inability to work on more than one major issue at a time, we do not know how science funding agencies would fair in the FY13 budget. Overlapping with this, and potentially complicating matters, will be the release of Obama’s proposed budget for FY14 at the end of February.

Stay tuned to the ASBMB Policy Blotter to find out how congressional deals affect individual researchers!

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