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Policy

Playing Nice On The Budget

Congress’s bipartisan budget deal seen as hopeful sign for improved R&D funding.

by Andrea Widener
December 23, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 51

A rare bipartisan budget deal has passed the Senate and House of Representatives, a move that has the science community hopeful for more cooperation going forward.

The compromise plan sets the overall budget levels through fiscal 2015 and eases the across-the-board budget cuts, called sequestration, during that period (see page 26).

The next big test for congressional cooperation will come as lawmakers quickly begin to work out how that money will be divided among programs and agencies for fiscal 2014, which began on Oct. 1. And they have only until Jan. 15, 2014, when the current stopgap funding measure expires, or a government shutdown could happen.

“There are hurdles to clear when Congress returns in January, but this is a good sign and we look forward to this being the tone of 2014,” says Shawn Osborne, president of the high-tech trade group TechAmerica Foundation.

As it has done often in recent years, Congress likely will wrap its remaining fiscal 2014 appropriations—which include all R&D support—into one immense omnibus spending bill. This could be a challenge because the Senate and House still need to decide on exact budgets for agencies, including those that fund R&D.

But, because the deal provides budget increases for fiscal 2014 and 2015, Matthew Hourihan at the American Association for the Advancement of Science estimates the budget deal could give science agencies, which were hit hard by sequestration, up to 8% more than 2013 funding. Which programs will be winners and losers, however, will be worked out by lawmakers over the next few weeks.

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