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Obama, Congress Reach Budget Deal

Legislation: Bipartisan agreement will likely improve outlook for science

by Andrea Widener
October 29, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 43

UPDATE: This story was updated on Oct. 30, 2015, to indicate that both the House and Senate have passed the budget deal.

Scientists can breathe a sigh of relief now that U.S. congressional leaders and President Barack Obama agreed last week to a new two-year budget deal.

The proposed Bipartisan Budget Act addresses one of scientists’ major concerns: budget caps called sequestration. Those federal spending limits, enacted in 2011, resulted in reduced science spending. That has meant fewer grants available for scientists, among other cutbacks.

“This is very good. This is what we have been asking for for months: raise the cap!” says Jennifer Zeitzer, deputy director for public affairs at the nonprofit Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The deal would allow spending above the budget caps, a total of $80 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 split equally between defense and nondefense spending. Congress still has to pass appropriations for specific agencies and programs, likely in a single huge bill later this year.

That new money bodes well for researchers, Zeitzer says. Science agencies—especially NIH—had received significant support during the normal appropriations processes, but the caps had limited how much money they could get. The extra money that comes with raising the spending caps can only improve their situation.

The deal also suspends the debt limit through March 2017, which avoids a default on federal loans that the Treasury Department said could come as early as November.

The House of Representatives and Senate both passed the budget deal this week. Now it will go to Obama for his signature.


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