Late last night, the Senate leadership and a coalition of moderate Senators led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reached an agreement on a package of reductions to the increases proposed in the Senate version of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act (otherwise known as the “stimulus bill”). The agreement would preserve $1.2 billion of the Senate’s proposed $1.4 billion increase for the National Science Foundation.
The agreement does reduce the increase in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science by $100 million (so, +$330 million instead of +$430 million), and NIST’s increase would be reduced by $100 million (so +$495 million instead of +$595 million). But given the reports we were receiving as recently as yesterday evening about the possibility of no increase for the science agencies in the bill, this is a remarkable turn of events.
The increase for NSF in the Senate bill will still be far less than the $3 billion called for in the House version of the bill, but NSF will be in far better shape in the conference between the two chambers coming in with $1.2 billion from the Senate instead of zero.
The Senate expects to vote on the bill on Tuesday and then the bill will move to a conference with the House to negotiate the differences. Given Congress’ desire to wrap this up by President’s Day, which starts a week-long district work period, the conference is expected to move quickly.
We’ll have all the details on the conference and the final bill as we get them. But for now, an encouraging result for advocates of greater federal investment in the physical sciences!