The Senate rejected two proposals for completing the 2011 federal budget last week, one that was passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives that included deep cuts and a second plan of more modest cuts proposed by Senate Democrats. Both measures would have reduced discretionary spending, including federal R&D spending, for the remaining months of the fiscal year.
The defeat of these measures means that Republicans and Democrats will have to restart budget negotiations. The federal government is operating on a short-term continuing resolution that expires on March 18 (C&EN, March 7, page 8). If Congress cannot pass a budget for the rest of the year by that date, or pass another continuing resolution, the government will shut down.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republican spending plans as “reckless” and said that it’s time for GOP legislators to work with Democrats on a “responsible, long-term solution that funds our government for the rest of the year, makes responsible cuts, and safeguards our fragile economic recovery.”
The House measure, H.R. 1, would have cut 2011 spending by $61 billion relative to 2010 spending (C&EN, Feb. 28, page 7), whereas Senate Democrats would cut $11 billion. Scientific and technology groups criticized the House bill as far too damaging to the U.S.’s R&D programs.
In a March 3 letter to Reid, the Task Force on American Innovation, a coalition of companies, scientific societies, and research universities, said the House measure “would make deep cuts” to federal science agencies. The American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN, is a member of this coalition.
In a statement, the Obama Administration expressed its willingness to work with Republicans and Democrats to “find common ground” on budget cuts. But the Administration also stressed the need to “ensure we cut responsibly, and that we don’t undermine growth and competitiveness by cutting investments in education and research and development.”