Five Minutes for the Future, 500 Letters to Congress

Now that the 2012 elections are over, Congress is returning to the business of crafting a 10-year deficit reduction plan. While efforts to bring the federal budget into greater balance are certainly necessary, Congress must do so in a way that doesn’t cost lives or impede the economic growth made possible through investments in biomedical research.

On January 2, 2013, the National Institutes of Health – along with much of the Federal government – stands to lose approximately 8% of its budget as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The $2.5 billion loss at NIH would result in 2,300 fewer research grants awarded in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 alone. For the fiscal year that concluded on September 30, 2012, the NIH grant success rate is likely to be reported as falling to 15% -an all-time low. A budget loss at the level required by the BCA could send the NIH grant success rate towards the single digits. Continue reading

Elections Conclude, Budget Battle Begins Anew

The campaign speeches, debates and rallies are over. The results in most states are known at the presidential and congressional levels. However, the November 6th elections did little to settle the debate on how best to reduce the deficit while bolstering the U.S. economy.

A majority of voters opted to give President Barack Obama additional time to right the economy. The president appears on course to secure roughly 51% of the vote and 332 electoral college votes (270 needed for victory). Democrats will gain seats in the United States Senate — retaining their majority — through battleground victories in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio. Republicans will keep their majority in the House of Representatives. However, the net change remains unknown. Overall, after Inauguration Day 2013, the political makeup of the federal government will be much the same as it is today. Continue reading

The 2012 Science Debate

It’s election eve and hopefully science is on the mind of the electorate. Candidates at the congressional and presidential levels have responded to questions posed by the science community. Several organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies Press, have partnered to compile presidential candidate responses to 14 questions and the results can be found on ScienceDebate.org. Additionally, AADR has co-sponsored the Research!America 2012 Your Candidates Your Health inititiave, which provides candidate responses in a searchable database at the congressional and presidential levels. Following the elections on Tuesday, AADR will provide analysis of the impact on research to be expected.

Fiscal Year 2013 Begins Amid Uncertainty

Today marks the beginning of Fiscal Year 2013. Last Friday, President Obama signed legislation that will keep the government open for the next six months despite the lack of a permanent budget for the year. Federal agencies and those who rely upon them can count on at least some stability in the system, given the provision of temporary funding at the FY12 level. However, that stability will be tested in the weeks leading up to January 2, 2013 when across-the-board cuts are scheduled to remove 8.2% from agencies’ budgets.

On Friday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) instructed federal agencies to “…continue normal spending and operations.” OMB went on to explain that agencies should largely ignore the threat of a January budget sequestration and that amended guidelines would be issued if necessary. The optimistic nature of the OMB guidance indicates that the administration continues to believe that government efforts need to be devoted to avoiding a budget sequestration, as opposed to planning for one. The White House goal is certainly shared by those in the research community. However, the strategy carries risks if sequestration become inevitable -which Washington partisanship suggests might already be the case. Now is certainly an appropriate time for scientists and students to join efforts to avoid budget sequestration. Visit the AADR Action Center today for access to tools that you can use to urge your elected representatives to develop an alternative to the scheduled budget sequester.

Congress Sends Six-Month Spending Bill to the President

Over the weekend, the Senate joined the House of Representatives in approving a stopgap spending measure that keeps the federal government in operation for the first half of Fiscal Year 2013 -which begins on Monday October 1st. The bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), provides temporary FY13 funding at the FY12 level. An additional 0.612% above FY12 will be provided through the CR as a result of a slightly higher overall budget ceiling for FY13. The CR is necessary since Congress has yet to send the president any of its annual spending bills. The permanent FY13 budget, along with legislation on taxes and long-term deficit reduction, is now on hold as both chambers of Congress stand in recess until after the November elections. Continue reading

Congress Faces Lengthy Fall To-Do List

The halls of Capitol Hill remain quiet for another few days, as Member of Congress engage their constituents back home and enjoy some rest before returning to a gridlocked DC.

In and out- Congress is back in session on September 10th and will begin with a lengthy list of issues to address, including (but not limited to) the development of an alternative to the across-the-board budget cut (known as the sequester) set to take place in January that almost all agree is a bad idea, completion of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process, and renewal (or not) of existing but temporary tax reductions. However, few expect any of that work to receive serious attention until after the November elections. The pre-election fall session of Congress is likely to consist of just 8-11 working days, as Members will spend the remainder of September and October campaigning to keep their seats. Continue reading

Tools for Talking to Congress

AADR has joined a partnership of several hundred national and state organizations that are pushing Congress to develop a balanced approached to deficit reduction, one that does not place a disproportionate burden on the domestic discretionary budget. The domestic discretionary budget, or non-defense discretionary (NDD) budget as it is often called, includes programs critical to the health and growth of the nation, such as those found in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education. NDD programs have been repeatedly targeted for reduction by Congress, despite the fact that they now stand at 50-year lows as a percentage of GDP.

Congress is now in a month-long recess period that concludes after Labor Day. As a result, Members are home visiting with their constituents. The time is right to engage the process. The NDD Summit Steering Committee has developed a toolkit to help individuals and organizations communicate their views on the budget to Members of Congress. The toolkit includes:

  1. A short video overview of the current debate and consequences;
  2. Tips for participating in town hall events and candidate forums;
  3. A sample op-ed;
  4. A flyer that you can distribute in your community; and
  5. Frequently asked questions about the January 2013 across-the-board budget reductions.

Budget Advocacy Toolkit

Congress Potentially Tabling FY13 Budget Until March

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that he has reached a deal with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to fund the federal government from the beginning of Fiscal Year 2013 on October 1st through the end of March 2013 at a level 0.4% above the current FY12 level.

The rare instance of bipartisanship essentially prevents another government shutdown debacle at the end of September and punts the final FY13 budget endgame to the next Congress and either President Obama or Governor Romney. Leaders in Congress bristled at the idea of another government shutdown showdown just a few weeks before the November election. Continue reading

Supreme Court Affirms Affordable Health Care Act

Today, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). The landmark ruling came as a bit of a surprise to observers of the high court and Capitol Hill, as oral arguments held earlier in the year seemed to indicate Continue reading