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NIH Highlights FY 2016 Legislative Mandates in Effect for the Agency

Included in the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113) signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2015 are a number of legislative mandates prohibiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from using appropriated FY 2016 funding to support certain research areas (see Update, December 18, 2015). A number of the mandates are a continuation of previous statutory limitations on the agency’s funding and include the areas of gun control, anti-lobbying, restrictions and exceptions to restrictions on abortion, pornography on computer networks, needle distribution, dissemination of false or misleading information, and human embryo research. For more information, see the NIH notice, NOT-OD-16-044.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NSF Director Thanks Community for Support in FY 2016

In her most recent newsletter, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Cόrdova reviewed the final funding outlook for NSF for fiscal year (FY) 2016 and thanked NSF advocates for their support in combating attempts to place restrictions on the agency’s funding: “Your strong support of NSF during this last year reinforced the importance of NSF’s mission to the nation and ensured that science, and scientists, will continue to drive where we fund research. With your help, language regarding directorate-specific allocations was not included in the final Consolidated Appropriations Act.”

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NIA Director Expresses Appreciation for NIH and NIA FY 2016 Budgets

National Institute on Aging (NIA) director Richard Hodes acknowledged “exciting news” reflected in the FY 2016 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and specifically for NIA in a January 6 blog post. Noting the $2 billion (6.6 percent) increase for the NIH for FY 2016, Hodes underscored that the increase provided a boost of approximately 33 percent for NIA, including the $350 million in funding allocated for research on Alzheimer’s disease (see COSSA’s omnibus analysis). Notwithstanding the resources dedicated to Alzheimer’s research, NIA’s FY 2016 budget provides a 4.2 percent increase to the institute, “the largest increase to the NIA budget since 2003,” Hodes explained.

He emphasized that the FY 2016 budget will “provide an opportunity for increased support for the broad range of NIA-supported aging research.” He particularly highlighted the recent release of ten Program Announcements with Review (PARs) across the “broad spectrum of Alzheimer’s disease research” (see Update, November 3, 2015). Hodes also stressed that “While Alzheimer’s is clearly a priority in FY 2016, increased funding in FY 2016 will allow expanded support of the full spectrum of NIA’s traditional areas of emphasis, including demographic and behavioral aspects of aging; clinical aspects of aging, including management of multiple chronic conditions; and investigations into the basis of the aging process, with an emphasis on geroscience—the intersection of the aging process and the diseases that typically occur later in life.” Hodes encouraged researchers interested in aging research, including small businesses that “turn translational research into practical benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers,” to anticipate the release of NIA funding opportunity announcements and outreach “over the next months.”

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 12), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Analysis of the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and Implications for Social and Behavioral Science Research

On December 15, House and Senate negotiators unveiled their final fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029), which includes all 12 of the individual appropriations bills and totals $1.15 trillion.

Congress passed another short term continuing resolution (CR) on Wednesday to allow enough time for the House and Senate to pass the massive spending bill and for the President to sign it, which he has indicated he would. Policymakers now have until December 22 to achieve final passage. Assuming the House can pass the bill on Friday-which will require the support of several Democrats since many conservative Republicans oppose the final agreement-the FY 2016 process could wrap up by the end of the week, at which time Members of Congress and staff will head home for the holidays, drawing to a close the first session of the 114th Congress. However, at the time of this writing, passage is not assured.

Should the bill pass, the final result for social and behavioral science funding in FY 2016 is positive. Compared to where we were just a few months ago-with major cuts proposed for social science accounts at several agencies-we are closing out the year in a better situation than many anticipated. This outcome can be largely attributed to the bipartisan budget deal that was brokered earlier in the fall, which provided much needed relief from sequestration and the tight discretionary spending caps. In addition, our champions on the Hill worked tirelessly on our behalf during these final negotiations to stave off devastating cuts to many of our programs.

The text of the bill and explanatory statement can be viewed on the House Rules Committee website.

Read on for COSSA’s agency-by-agency analysis of the FY 2016 omnibus.

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Posted in Update, Volume 34 (2015)

FY 2016 Funding Debate Labors On

Congress was forced to pass another funding extension last week in order to avoid a government shutdown on December 11. Policy makers have given themselves until December 16 at midnight to complete work on the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills, allowing for a few more days to work through the many policy riders (dealing with Syrian refugees, Planned Parenthood, and about 40 others) that have slowed progress on the $1.1 trillion package over the last several weeks. As of the time of this writing, text of a final FY 2016 spending package (also known as an omnibus) has not been released. It has become common practice in recent years to hold off on releasing the text of large bills until the very last minute—usually a couple of days before it receives a final vote—in order to minimize any additional roadblocks to final passage. This coupled with the secretive nature of the ongoing negotiations sets up a certain last minute scramble for advocates to digest the bill, develop and position, and activate their stakeholders once it is released. COSSA may release a special issue of Update outlining the details of the FY 2016 spending package if the bill text is released before the end of the year.

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Posted in Issue 23 (December 15), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

With Budget Deal in the Books, Work Turns to Finalizing 2016 Spending Bills

Last week was an eventful one in Washington. In just about 72 hours, House and Senate negotiators successfully brokered a two year budget deal with the White House, effectively providing two years of relief from sequestration (i.e. the painful spending caps holding down discretionary spending) and suspending the nation’s debt limit, which would have been breached this week without Congressional action, until early 2017. Last week also ushered in a changing of the guard in the House, with the resignation of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker and as the Representative from the 8th District of Ohio, and election of Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the new Speaker, effective immediately.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provides sequester relief for two years (FY 2016-2017) by temporarily lifting the top-line discretionary budget caps set by a previous budget deal. The deal provides for $80 billion in additional discretionary funding over two years ($50 billion in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017), split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, and an additional $16 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This means that for FY 2016 (which began on October 1, 2015), non-defense discretionary spending (which includes federal research accounts) will receive an additional $33 billion spread across the government.

Now that a budget deal has been reached and sequestration relief temporarily achieved, Congress will return to its work on enacting final FY 2016 appropriations bills. Appropriations Committee leaders in the House and Senate will provide guidance to their respective subcommittees this week on how much additional funding each will be allocated under the agreement. Once the subcommittees receive their new allocations (known as “302(b) allocations”), the subcommittees will get to work on revising their bills and conferencing with the other chamber to reach a final agreement. Congress has only about four working weeks to complete the FY 2016 appropriations bills before the current stop-gap spending measure expires on December 11. The risk of a government shutdown in December still looms, but the chances have been drastically reduced thanks to the budget agreement passed last week.

For more information on the budget deal, check out the detailed analysis prepared by AAAS.

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Posted in Issue 20 (November 3), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Budget Talks Progressing Slowly Amid GOP Leadership Vacuum

Only 10 Congressional working days remain between now and the date the U.S. Treasury Department estimates the U.S. will have exhausted its “extraordinary measures” and default on its debt. Originally estimated for November 5, Treasury now says that the U.S. will reach the so-called debt limit by November 3. These developments coupled with the recent surprise withdrawal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as candidate for House Speaker further complicate and likely delay budget negotiations that many hoped would be well underway at this point. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may be forced to delay his retirement, originally scheduled for the end of October, until the House GOP can agree on a new candidate and hold leadership elections. Still pending amid this uncertainty are all 12 annual appropriations bills, which are currently funded by a continuing resolution (CR) until December 11; fiscal year (FY) 2016 officially began on October 1. Given the current situation, it is difficult to see how Congress will complete its work on the FY 2016 appropriations bills before the end of the year.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 20), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Government Shutdown Averted, For Now

Congress was able to pass a continuing resolution (CR) on September 30, the final day of fiscal year (FY) 2015, within hours of a deadline that would result in a government shutdown. However, the CR simply kicks the can to December 11, the new deadline for coming to a final agreement on FY 2016 appropriations. While policymakers have provided themselves an additional 10 weeks to complete work on the annual spending bills, the path to the finish line remains unclear, complicated further by recent events like the announcement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) of his retirement at the end of October and the upcoming Republican leadership elections. In addition, the Treasury Department announced last week that the federal government is expected to reach its borrowing limit (“debt limit”) by November 5, several weeks earlier than originally expected. These developments, coupled with real-time negotiations on a larger two-year budget deal, make for a challenging chess match that promises to continue well into December, if not longer. Observers fear that the real chance for a government shutdown will occur in December when the stakes for a budget deal are that much higher.

What’s the likely outcome? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. However, there are several scenarios that could take shape in the coming weeks, including (but certainly not limited to): a grand budget bargain that raises caps on discretionary spending similar to the bipartisan budget deal struck two years ago, which would provide some relief to federal agencies and programs that have been feeling the pinch in recent years; a year-long CR that would fund the federal government at FY 2015 levels for the balance of FY 2016, keeping sequestration in place for another year; or a government shutdown that eventually forces action on one of the aforementioned scenarios. Check out COSSA’s funding updates, policy statements, and letters for a refresher on the latest developments impacting federal agencies and programs of interest to the COSSA community.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Advocates Call for Budget Deal as End of Fiscal Year Nears

One week out from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2016 and Congress has yet to decide on a path forward for funding the government that will not result in a government shutdown come October 1. A continuing resolution (CR) must be enacted in the next week to allow Congress the time it needs to complete the 12 outstanding FY 2016 appropriations bills.

Language of a short term CR could surface in the Senate as early as today. Even still, with the arrival of Pope Francis in the nation’s capital this week and a short Congressional break to observe Yom Kippur, only a handful of days separate Congress from a shutdown. Work is almost certain to continue into the weekend. And there are no guarantees that a “clean” CR floated by the Senate could pass the House, which has members still clamoring for action to defund Planned Parenthood.

Getting to October 1 is just the start; Congress must still complete the FY 2016 appropriations process in some way. But first, lawmakers on both sides are calling for broader budget negotiations to reverse sequestration. Until that happens, the FY 2016 funding bills remain in limbo. One possible outcome is that Congress will be unable to broker a broad deal and we will end up with a yearlong CR that funds the government at FY 2015 levels, thereby locking in sequestration (the tight budget caps currently in effect) for yet another year.

On September 10, COSSA joined 2,500 national, state, and local organizations on a letter to Congress urging relief from sequestration in FY 2016 by taking a balanced approach to deficit reduction. In particular, the letter notes the cuts that have already been taken to nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs, which include research funding.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Congress Returns for a Busy Fall

Following a month-long August recess, Congress returns to work this week to a full agenda of must-pass items. At the top of the list will be passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded and avert a shutdown come October 1. However, unrelated controversies dealing with Planned Parenthood and the Confederate flag will likely make the road to a CR difficult in the coming weeks.

Assuming we get to October 1 without the government shutting down, the next big issue on the agenda is brokering some sort of deal to reverse or at least mitigate the impacts of sequestration, which include the current spending caps that are tamping down funding across federal agencies and programs. As previously reported, work on the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills sputtered out as Congress headed for recess because, among other reasons, Republicans have written the FY 2016 spending bills keeping within the spending caps, while Democrats and the White House vowed to block bills that do not bust through the caps. It does not appear that much has changed during the recess to bridge this divide, leaving many to wonder how any of these issues will get resolved in the remaining months of 2015.

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Posted in Issue 16 (September 8), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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