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Budget Battle 2013 Begins

Appropriations: Science fares well in House-passed bill

by Andrea Widener & Susan Morrissey
May 21, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 21

The House of Representatives has passed the first of 12 fiscal 2013 appropriations bills, and the measure contains some preliminarily good news for key science agencies. But it must still be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, who has threatened a veto over budget cuts in the bill.

The House-passed $51.1 billion Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5326) includes a 10.5% increase over 2012 for NIST, bringing its 2013 budget to $830 million, and a 4.3% increase for NSF, bringing its budget to $7.3 billion. NASA is set to see a 1.8% cut under the legislation, for a total budget of $17.4 billion. In all three cases, the House levels are at or near the President’s requested budget.

“The House-passed bill demonstrates bipartisan support for science and recognition that it is critically important to U.S. innovation and global competitiveness,” says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs.

Such support is essential as Congress is in the midst of an intense battle to rein in the federal deficit. The gains seen for science are being balanced by cuts to nonscience programs, such as health care and education.

Harold D. Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says the total $1.6 billion cut from 2012’s level by H.R. 5326 is necessary. “This legislation funds important programs at adequate, responsible levels while cutting spending,” he says.

The veto threat by the Administration comes because of cuts such as the $330 million decrease from the 2013 budget request for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Amendments added to the bill on the House floor are also raising concern from the Administration and other observers, including the science community. For example, one amendment halts all NSF funding for political science research.



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