HR 1892: Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Congress approved a two-year budget plan on February 9 that would increase authorizations for federal spending. The agreement passed in the Senate (71-28) and House (240-186) and was signed into law by President Trump. The bipartisan agreement raised the caps on defense and nondefense discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years, with nondefense discretionary spending – the biggest source of research funding – getting a $63 billion boost in FY 2018 and an additional $68 billion in FY 2019.

Almost all agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are funded under the discretionary budget might now be able to receive modest budget increases if Congress so chooses to appropriate additional funding.

Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee said, “We are not handing these increases out uniformly and some areas will get cuts, it’s not like everyone is going to be spared by this.”

Senate lawmakers have proposed a $2 billion increase in the NIH budget for FY 2018, $1 billion more than the level proposed by the House. The new agreement tags a $2 billion increase in NIH’s budget over two years. The agency would get another $500 million from the 21st Century Cures Act in 2018.

NSF might also receive a bump in funding from the deal. The House had earlier proposed to keep NSF’s budget flat in 2018. However, Representative John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science that funds NSF, indicated that he would consider increasing the budget if the spending caps were raised.

Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA), chairman of the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee, indicated that many EPA grant programs would get a “strong look” for increased funds. These might include State and Tribal Assistance grants, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act grants and Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants. He also expressed concern about capital spending accounts being severely cut in recent years to help cover operating costs and indicated interest in raising capital funding for overdue Interior Department projects.

There is bipartisan support in the House for restoring some of the funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy projects on the Energy and Water spending bill. Senate appropriators would like to see an 8 percent increase in the agency’s annual budget.

Infrastructure programs in rural water, wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, and surface transportation could receive an increase of about $20 billion over two years. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, stated that the additional funds would be appropriated to these programs later.