Two Days After Averting Government Shutdown, Congress Releases Omnibus Spending Bill

2017-05-01T18:02:53+00:00 May 1, 2017|
After the 115th Congress was sworn in on January 3, bills were introduced in the House that would significantly impact executive branch regulations and rulemaking. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

(Click to enlarge)  (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

Seven months into Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and Congress (in what has become a too-common pattern) passed a week-long continuing resolution (CR), H.J.Res.99, to keep the federal government open while they scrambled to put the finishing touches on an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Congress has until midnight on May 5 to approve the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 244), which consists of the 11 unfinished FY 2017 appropriations bills. The omnibus, which was released at 2am Monday morning, provides $1.07 trillion in base spending for FY 2017 ($1.16 trillion including Overseas Contingency Operations funding).

The omnibus does not include President Trump’s request to cut FY 2017 non-defense budget authority by $18 billion; his request for funding to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border; supplemental funding to hire additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or to expedite hiring; riders considered poison pills restricting sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants, defunding Planned Parenthood, or undermining the Affordable Care Act. Details on budget lines can be found on COL’s website here and here.

The National Science Foundation would see a $9 million increase from FY 16 levels to $7.472 billion. This includes $6.03 billion for research and development facilities and $209 million for scientific infrastructure. Funding for some line items would remain level with FY 2016, including $6.033 billion for Research and Related Activities, Major Research Equipment and Facilities Constructions would see an increase to $209 million (roughly $9 million over FY 2016 enacted levels), $4.37 billion is slated for the National Science Board, and $880 million for the Education and Human Resources Directorate (with $30 million for the I-Corps program). Report language calls for $121.8 million of this to be provided to facilitate planning and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. 

It is important to note that there are significant differences in rescissions and scorekeeping adjustments among the FY 2016 enacted levels, the FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science bill that was introduced in the House, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 making some comparisons misleading. In total, new non-emergency discretionary budget authority, the FY 2017 bill provides $65.9 billion, $250.5 million above the comparable FY 2016 enacted level, $44.5 million above the FY 2017 House bill, and $8.6 million below President Obama’s FY 2017 request. The bill decreases funding from FY 2016 enacted levels by 1.6 percent for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to $5.675 billion. NOAA would receive $75 million to continue building a new Ocean Survey Vessel, $478 million for the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research programs (an increase of $16 million) and continued support for programs such as Sea Grant, Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, Coastal Zone Management Grants, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. In particular, climate research continues at its FY 2016 level of $158 million, $30 million more than the House bill. The National Weather Service would be funded at $1.1 billion, and $329 million would go to the continued construction of polar weather satellites.

The Department of Defense would be funded at $593 billion, a $19.9 billion increase over FY 2016 levels, with the Science and Technology line seeing a 7.5 percent increase to $14.011 billion. Navy Basic Research (6.1) received $563 million (a 16 percent decrease from FY 2016), Applied Research (6.2) received $980 million (a 1.5 percent increase), and Advanced Technology (6.3) received $824 million (an 18 percent increase). University Research Initiatives and Power Projection Applied research each received $20 million over the president’s budget request, and Ocean Warfighting Environment Applied Research received $39 million over the president’s budget request, specifically for AGOR mid-life refit ($30 million), naval special warfare maritime science and technology ($5 million), and space-based monitoring in the Arctic basin ($4 million).

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would be funded at $19.653 billion ($600 million above the original request and $368 million above FY 2016), with Science seeing a 3.1 percent increase to $5.765 billion (an increase from the $5.6 billion in the last administration’s request). The Earth Science program would receive $1.92 billion (less than the $2.03 billion in the president’s budget request and equal to FY 2016 spending). Two programs that were proposed for termination in President Trump’s FY 18 “skinny budget” would also be funded this fiscal year. The Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission, which will give scientists unprecedented insight into Earth’s ocean and atmosphere is slated to receive $90 million, and the Office of Education would receive $100 million.

The Department Of Energy Office of Science is funded at $5.4 million, a $42 million increase from FY 2016 enacted levels. The Department Of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would receive an appropriated level of $74.6 million, a half of a percent increase from the FY 2016 enacted amount ($74.2 million); and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would receive $83.1 million, a 6 percent decrease from the FY 2016 enacted amount ($88.5 million). The Act includes report language targeting the National Ocean Policy: BOEM – “The request did not include any funds for coastal marine spatial planning and accordingly the bill provides no funds for such activities,” and “The President’s budget submission for fiscal year 2018 shall identify by agency and account all funding and associated actions proposed for the implementation of the coastal and marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management components of the National Ocean Policy developed under Executive Order 13547.”

The omnibus spending bill has numerous rescissions across various titles and division, as well as  more than $8 billion in emergency and disaster relief funding to fight wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events. Votes are expected as early as Wednesday in the House.