NSF Congressional Highlight
March 22, 1999
Last week, the House and Senate Committees reported out budget resolutions
for FY2000. Both the House and the Senate plans are
similar, but differences remain especially regarding
the treatment of Medicare. Speaker of the House Hastert
and Senate Majority Leader Lott have both said that
a final budget agreement between the House and the
Senate will be passed by April 15.
Under both plans, discretionary spending would be significantly
lower than last year's level, putting tremendous pressure
on appropriators to make painful spending cuts. Each
resolution assumes the continuation of the discretionary
spending caps established by the balanced budget agreement
of 1997. Thus, the resolutions would provide $536
billion in budget authority (BA) and $571 billion
in outlays for discretionary spending in FY2000, significantly
less than 1998 totals.
Compounding this problem is that the House and the
Senate proposed significant increases in defense spending.
For example, the Senate resolution would require non-defense
discretionary spending cuts totaling $46 billion in
FY2000, and $10 billion of cuts in FY2001, in order
to meet the caps. The Senate resolution assumes that
the spending caps will expire in FY2002, and that
nondefense discretionary spending will then rise at
about half the rate of inflation annually through
FY2009. It is unclear whether the caps would expire
under the House resolution.
The Senate allows the appropriators to breach the spending
caps in FY2000 and FY2001 by designating certain spending
as "emergency" spending and passage by a 2/3rds vote.
The House committee resolution contains no similar
Both resolutions also assume tax cuts of up to $15
billion in FY2000 and a total of $142 billion over
the next five years, and $778 billion over the next
ten. Also, both the House and Senate plans stipulate
that an estimated $1.8 trillion in Social Security
trust fund surpluses over next 10 years cannot be
used for any tax cuts or spending programs.
At mark-up, the Senate Budget Committee passed their
resolution on a party-line vote with few amendments
passing. Significantly, a motion to extend the caps
on discretionary spending beyond 2002 failed. The
Committee did pass a non-binding resolution in favor
of continued 15-percent NIH increases over the next
three years. The panel also adopted a non-binding
resolution offered Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) supporting
continued increases in federal R&D investments.
The House Budget Committee passed its resolution on
a party-line vote. At mark-up, an amendment offered
by freshman Democrat Rush Holt (D-NJ) to increase
NSF and NIH funding was rejected. Rejected on a party-line
vote, the Holt amendment proposed to increase Function
250 budget authority (BA) and outlays for NSF to the
President's request level and to provide inflation
increases in the outyears. The Holt amendment would
also doubled the NIH budget in five years. The increases
would have been paid for through reductions in the
Defense spending increases proposed in the House resolution.
The outyear increases would have been paid for by
reductions in any future tax cuts.
As a compromise, Committee Chairman Kasich (R-OH) offered
to make the Holt amendment a non-binding, Sense of
the Congress resolution. This was rejected by Democrats.
During debate over the Kasich compromise, there was
debate over which party was a bigger supporter of
research. Kasich stated that there had been no emphasis
on research until the Republicans took control of
Congress and dramatically increased NIH funding every
year. But Democrats Lynn Rivers (MI) and Ken Bentsen
(TX) replied that earlier GOP budgets proposed drastic
cuts in NIH and NSF.
For Function 250 - Science, Space and Technology-which
includes NSF, NASA, and DoE research programs, the
Senate proposes a total of $17.9 billion in BA (down
$900 million from the FY'99 total of $18.8 billion)
and $18.2 billion in outlays (the same amount as FY'99).
The House would provide $18 billion in total BA for
Function 250 in FY2000.