As New Fiscal Year Begins, Congress Keeps Moving On Appropriations

2019-10-01T10:52:57+00:00 October 1, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

President Signs Stopgap Measure to Avoid Shutdown; Senate Committee Approves Commerce-Justice-Science Spending Bill

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

Last Friday, the president signed a short-term continuing resolution (H.R. 4378) that keeps the federal government funded at fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels through November 21. Since the new fiscal year starts on October 1, this stopgap measure averts a government shutdown and gives Congress more time to continue work on their 12 appropriations bills.

Also last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved, by a vote of 31-0, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, 2020 (S.2584) which funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Senate appropriations bills comply with limits set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-37), which was passed in July. However, the House started approving their bills (including CJS) prior to the budget deal using funding limits that were in line with their own budget caps, which are $17 billion above the new nondefense cap and $5 billion below the new defense cap. Once the CJS bill passes the Senate floor, the House and Senate will meet in conference to work out funding levels in line with limits set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019.

The $70.8 billion Senate CJS bill provides nearly $6.7. billion more than FY 2019 enacted levels but is lower than the House’s $73.9 billion. This includes $15.2 billion for the Department of Commerce (DOC); the majority’s press release highlights the bill’s “strong support for economic development, strengthening trade enforcement, improving fisheries management, protecting intellectual property rights, and advancing severe weather forecasting” at the DOC.

The bill would fund NOAA at $5.3 billion, which is $87.4 million below the FY 2019 enacted level, $141.6 million less than the House version, and $870.9 million above the president’s budget request. The majority’s press release notes funds would allow the agency “to continue core operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; and severe weather forecasting. Full funding is also provided for NOAA’s flagship weather satellites.” The committee report explains the decrease in funding for the agency’s Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction (PAC) accounts was expected due to weather satellites entering the operational phase following completion of construction.

The committee rejected the proposed elimination or reduction of several programs by the president’s budget request. The proposed 41 percent cut to ocean, climate, and weather research was ignored; instead, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would see $572 million (ORF and PAC combined). Additionally, the bill funds the Sea Grant program at $75 million, Coastal Zone Management grants at $76.5 million, the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund at $30 million, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System at $27 million.

NSF would see $8.3 billion in the Senate bill, which is an increase of $242 million over the FY 2019 enacted level, $319.1 million less than the House bill, and $1.3 million above the budget request. The majority press release notes that this funding “is provided for basic research across scientific disciplines to support the development of effective STEM programs.” The minority press release states “NSF’s funding level will support approximately 725 additional research and education grants and 9,300 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students.”

Additionally, report language asserts the committee provided “significant funding above the amount requested in fiscal year 2020. Therefore, NSF shall maintain its core research at levels not less than those provided in fiscal year 2017. The Committee believes that the additional funds provided for fiscal year 2020 are more than adequate to continue basic research and allow NSF to position the United States to continue as a global science and engineering leader using the 10 Big ideas framework.”

NASA would see $22.8 billion, which is $1.3 billion above FY 2019 enacted levels, $435 million more than the House bill, and $134.3 million above the president’s revised budget request. The Science Mission Directorate would see $6.9 billion, with $1.9 billion of that going to Earth Science (amounts are equal to and just above FY 2019 numbers, respectively). This includes funding for Earth-facing projects the president’s budget request proposed for elimination, such as the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission, which would see $161 million. The committee also ignored the elimination of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Engagement programs (formerly the Office of Education) in the president’s budget request, instead funding the program at $112 million.

Quotable

“This bipartisan legislation supports critical priorities, as it provides funding to ensure our nation remains a world leader in space exploration and scientific research, while also funding programs that protect national security interests and boost economic development. I am grateful to Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen for their effort to successfully move this robust bill.”—Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (AL).

“I also want to thank Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen for their good work on the CJS bill. They have crafted a strong, bipartisan Commerce, Justice, Science bill that makes critical investments in economic development programs, essential Justice Department grants, and important research and development programs.” Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (VT)

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