Issue Date: March 2, 2009
Spending Bill Advances
THE HOUSE has cleared a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill to continue funding the federal government through fiscal 2009. In line with the Obama Administration's focus on energy and science, the bill includes increased funds for R&D. The Senate is expected to take up the bill quickly, as Congress must pass it by March 6, when current government funding runs out.
Last year, Congress and President George W. Bush were unable to reach agreement on appropriations for most government agencies, except for the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. Instead, Congress passed legislation last September continuing federal funding at 2008 levels for five months, forcing the new Administration to address the 2009 budget.
Overall, the House-approved bill provides an 8% increase over last year's funding level. Democrats and a smattering of Republicans backed the bill, but Republican House leaders objected to the price tag and urged that government funds be frozen at last year's level.
The bill boosts the budgets of key science agencies. For example, the Department of Energy's Office of Science will see its 2009 funding grow by $755 million to $4.8 billion. This includes $765 million, $268 million above the 2008 level, for "advanced energy research," such as batteries and fusion energy.
To support climate, ocean, and weather research, NOAA will get $4.4 billion, up $469 million. NASA also will get a boost of $385 million to $17.8 billion for climate-change research, space exploration, and other activities.
NSF and NIH will see increases of $363 million and $938 million, respectively, to support more research. Funding for NIST will also grow by $63 million to $819 million.
The bill does not include funds from the $787 billion stimulus package. The House Appropriations Committee did not provide details about how the two packages will be merged, saying only that the bill "works in harmony with the economic recovery package."
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