Public Affairs

Congress Funds Government through January 15 and Seeks Compromise for 2014

After a partial government shutdown extending more than two weeks, the pending threat of the federal government running out of money unless the debt ceiling was raised caused Congress to approve a continuing resolution (CR) that allowed the government to reopen and ensured that the nation did not default on its debt the following day. The CR funds federal programs, including those that fund science, through January 15, 2014, at FY 2013 levels.

The CR also requires the House and Senate to set up a conference committee that will come up with a budget compromise by December 13 to fund the government for the rest of FY 2014. At the beginning of the negotiations, the House and Senate budget plans for the year differed by $91 billion. The House version would fund discretionary spending at $967 billion, as required by the 2011 passed Budget Control Act (BCA), but would shift all of the required cuts in defense spending to domestic programs, rather than divide the cuts equally between defense and nondefense as stated in the BCA. In contrast, the Senate budget plan for 2014 disregarded the sequestration cuts required by the BCA and permits $1.058 trillion in spending for FY 2014.

In the search to find a compromise and a way to replace the sequester cuts, the panel has the authority to negotiate changes in entitlement programs and tax policies to find savings. President Obama and congressional Democrats are in favor of using these means to replace the sequester cuts that they find too severe, while congressional Republicans, acknowledging the cuts are hard to swallow, contend that sequestration is the only mechanism that is in place to control federal spending. The FY 2014 automatic cut would be approximately two percent compared to the FY 2013 level, impacting defense programs more than domestic programs since domestic programs took a bigger hit in 2011 and 2012 than defense programs did.

Report Highlights Companies Founded on Science Research

Sparking Economic Growth 2.0, a new report released in October by The Science Coalition, highlights 100 companies that trace their roots to federally-funded university research and their role in bringing transformational innovations to market, creating new jobs, and contributing to economic growth. An accompanying online database to the report allows users to view company profiles and sort by federal funding agency, university affiliation, and type of innovation. The Science Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisanorganization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities.

“This report demonstrates the power of the federal investment in basic scientific research,” said Science Coalition President Tim Lushun in a press release. “While research is only a small portion of the overall federal budget, the results are huge: discoveries with profound implications for our health, safety, and quality of life; training for future generations of scientists, doctors, and teachers; and innovations that give birth to new technologies, companies, and industries.”

Federal funding for research and development (R&D) has been decreasing for the past decade, with funding levels in 2013 at historic lows. Sequestration, which began in March 2013, is set to run through 2021 and cut an additional $95 billion from federal R&D budgets over this period. This report demonstrates that those cuts will have negative consequences for our economy. Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 and accompanying database are available at www.sciencecoalition.org/successstories.

Biophysical Society Sponsors Faces of Austerity Report

In Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Safe, NDD United, an alliance of more than 3,200 organizations, goes sector by sector, from science research to education to workforce development, telling the stories of those who’ve been impacted most by Washington’s failure to protect the programs that keep us healthy, safe, and educated.

The Biophysical Society, a member of the NDD United alliance, sponsored the report to help educate Congress and the public on the devastating effects the budget cuts have on science research, and in turn, our country’s economy and health. Jian Liu, a scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is featured in the science section of the report.

  • Thanks to $4 million in grants from the NIH since 2006, Liu has developed a first-of-its-kind synthetic heparin, created chemically, and not from pigs as in the past. This breakthrough has the potential to end America’s reliance on heparin manufactured outside of the US, where standards and oversight may be lax. Said Liu, “We are very close to a breakthrough on heparin... Considering the frequency with which heparin is used (300,000 doses daily), and its $4 billion in annual worldwide sales, a domestically manufactured synthetic heparin would not only improve the safety of the drug, but strengthen the economy. Liu’s grant was delayed as Congress delayed and ultimately allowed sequestration to happen. As a result, Liu was forced to slow the pace of his research and cancel plans to increase the number of researchers in his laboratory.

In 2013, sequestration has cut $1.7 Billion from the NIH budget, which has resulted in a decrease of 1,300 research grants and 460 training grants.

The report also explains that the sequestration cuts will continue through 2023, cutting a total of $1.6 trillion from defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs combined, relative to the inflation-adjusted 2010 funding levels. In two years, NDD spending will equal a smaller percentage of our economy than ever before, with data going back to 1962, if lawmakers do not act to replace sequestration with a more meaningful and comprehensive deficit reduction strategy.

Faces of Austerity is available online at www.biophysics.org.