Apologies for the slow pace of updates recently. Things are a bit slow around DC this time of year. Congress is in recess for the month of August so that the Members can head home to their respective districts for primaries and lots of campaigning. They’ll be back September 7th, hoping to “wrap up” work in October so they can get back to their districts for those last hectic weeks of campaigning before the November 2nd elections. Chances are, however, that they won’t accomplish their primary legislative goal — passing the 12 (of 13 total) appropriations bills still outstanding before the start of the new fiscal year October 1st. In fact, it’s likely that they’ll be back in town after the election in “lame duck” session to wrap things up. And, if I was a betting man, I’d wager that they still won’t get the appropriations bills done and will punt to the next Congress in January.
The delay was preordained once Congress failed to pass a joint Budget Resolution earlier this year. Not having a Congressionally approved budget resolution to set the spending caps for the appropriators means that any appropriations bill coming to the floor of either chamber could get “larded up” with amendments for favorite causes and the congressional leadership will be unable to oppose them using a “budget process” argument. Each amendment would force lawmakers to take a stand and vote up or down on some program — not the sort of thing the leadership wants to have happen in a tough election year. So, the easiest solution for the leadership (on both sides of the aisle) is just avoid the issue altogether — bundle the bills together into one giant “omnibus bill” and save it for a time when the costs are lower.
That noted, the House Appropriations Committee has already moved far enough along on one bill especially important to our community to generate concern. As we’ve covered previously, the VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations bill approved by the committee just prior to the recess includes some significant cuts to NSF and NASA. Under the bill, NSF would lose $111 million in current funding in FY 2005, a decrease of 2.0 percent. This is a far cry from the 15 percent increase for FY 2005 authorized by Congress and approved by the President as part of the NSF Authorization Act of 2002.
In response, members of CRA’s Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN) have been contacting their Representatives and Senators urging them to reject the cuts and instead fund NSF at the level approved in the NSF Authorization Act. If you’re already a CRAN member, you should have already received the “CRAN Alert” with all the information, background, sample letters and contact information to help make the case for NSF. Even if you’re not a CRAN member, I’d urge you to use the information to contact your own Senators and Representative, and join the network!
I’ll be providing further details on our efforts and the bill’s progress as it moves forward. But please take the time to contact your representatives in Congress. A strong show of support from the community is crucial in our efforts to reverse these cuts….