Late in the night on Friday December 9th, the Senate passed a buzzer-beater continuing resolution (or CR) to keep the Federal Government open and operating. The new deadline for us to watch is April 28th 2017, roughly four months from now. Passage of this legislation sets up an interesting first half of the year for Congress, as they will have an overflowing plate of items to work on: a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, Trump Administration cabinet positions to confirm, and a debt limit to deal with at the end of February. Adding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget to the mix is a lot, and there is a possibility of a dreaded year-long CR. Keeping Federal funding at FY 2016 levels for all of Fiscal Year 2017 (which began on Oct 1st 2016) would be an effective cut due to inflation.
As the name implies, the CR will fund the government at FY 2016 levels. There are exceptions to this, as the bill that was passed includes new funds for the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R.34), as well as other increases at the Defense Department and water infrastructure aid to Flint Michigan. The 21st Century Cures Act would receive $872 million for health research; with some going to CS-related initiatives, such as the NIH-NSF BRAIN Initiative, which fall under the new NIH Innovation Projects account. So a small victory for the science researcher community in this bill.
But on the larger scale, this does create more uncertainty for how the final Fiscal Year 2017 will end up. To add to the concern, how this will impact next year’s budget, FY 2018, is an open question; will Congress have enough bandwidth to handle two budgets in one year? We’ll keep watching and will report back as things unfold.