Policy Update: April 24, 20112

Last week, Congress headed off for its 2013 summer recess, a five-week break until it returns in September. While the Senate avoided a meltdown over filibuster rules, overall Congress continues to have great difficulty passing significant legislation. As they worked to move some of the FY14 Appropriations bills, there is talk of another stopgap funding bill (Continuing Resolution) to keep the government running at current funding levels.  Like recent years, the two branches are divided over how much to spend on domestic discretionary programs, including those funding research and higher education programs.

The House and Senate are working with very different overall funding levels for each of the FY14 appropriations bills they are crafting.








$6.995 billion 

+ 1.6 percent

$7.426 billion 

+ 7.9 percent
NIST $784 million - 3.0 percent`` $947.5 million  + 17 percent
NOAA $4.92 billion nearly no change $5.59 billion + 13.2 percent
NASA $16.6 billion - 5.4 percent $18 billion + 2.7 percent
NIH -- -- $30.955 billion + 7.0 percent
DOE $25.0 billion - 7.4 percent $28.2 billion + 4.3 percent
DOD RDTE $66.4 billion - 5.0 percent $65.8 billion - 6.0 percent 


The Commerce, Justice, Science bill was passed by both the House and Senate Committees.


  • House: $6.995 billion - $111 million or 1.6 percent above the final FY 2013 level (including sequester and rescissions)
  • Senate: $7.426 billion - $542 million or 7.9 percent above the final FY 2013 level (including sequester and rescissions)


  • House: 784 million - 3 percent below the FY 2013 level
  • Senate: $947.5 million - 17 percent increase over the FY 2013 enacted level


  • House: $4.92 billion - slightly below the FY 2013 pre-sequester level but $524 million
  • Senate: 5.59 billion - $653 million or 13.2 percent above FY 2013


  • House: $16.6 billion - $928 million or 5.4 percent below the FY 2013 enacted level (not including sequestration
  • Senate: 18 billion for NASA - 2.7 percent above FY 2013


The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the FY14 Labor-HHS & Education spending bill, which adheres to the $164.3 billion allocation that the Appropriations Committee approved and assumes cancellation of sequestration. It’s unclear when the bill will come to the Senate floor.  Meanwhile, the House has not moved its version of the bill, due to disagreements over funding levels, but has allocated some $42.5 billion less for the Subcommittee to work with than the Senate. Similar to recent years, this bill is not likely to make it through the legislative process.

NIH: $30.947 billion for NIH - an increase of $307 million over the FY 2013 enacted level prior to sequestration, and $2.021 billion over the FY 2013 level after sequestration and transfers.


Both the House and the Senate approved versions of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $34.8 billion FY14 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which is $1.96 billion below the FY13 enacted funding level before sequestration.  The Senate bill is $4.4 billion more than the House version of the bill, which totaled $30.4 billion.


  • House: $26 billion for DOE - a cut of $1 billion (3.8 percent) above the FY13 enacted level
  • Senate: $28.2 billion for DOE - an increase of $1.2 billion (4.3 percent) above the FY13 enacted level

DOE Office of Science:

  • House: $5.152 billion, which is $500 million below the Senate bill
  • Senate: $5.153 billion, which is the same as the President’s budget request and an increase of $276.8 million (5.7 percent) above the FY 2013 enacted level


On June 12, the House Appropriations Committee advanced its FY2014 defense appropriations bill at $512.5 billion for base DOD funding, some $3.4 billion below the level included in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request.  However, the House recommendation is above the cap on defense spending identified in the Budget Control Act (BCA).  

On August 1st, the Senate passed its version of the Defense spending bill, which totaled $594.4 billion. The prioritization of research, and particularly basic and applied research, is evident in the bill and explanatory report.  The $65.8 billion total for defense research, development, test, and evaluation (RDTE) programs is $4.1 billion below the FY 2013 pre-sequester level and $1.7 billion less than requested by President Obama, but DOD basic and applied research accounts are favored within that amount.

In the House bill, defense basic research (6.1) would be increased over current levels within the Army, Air Force, and defense-wide programs, with only Navy basic research taking a slight reduction from the FY 2013 pre-sequester level.  All told, the programs of greatest importance to universities and other non-profit research institutions continue to fare better than many accounts across DOD experiencing deep reductions. 


In addition to appropriations, we have also been working closely with our congressional delegation on legislation to prevent the doubling of interest rates on federal student loans.  The “Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013” (H.1911) - which was one of the few bills the House and Senate passed this session - will align interest rates on student loans with market rates.  The legislation only applies to loans issued on or after July 1, 2013.  This fall, undergraduate students will pay an interest rate of 3.86% on their Stafford loans. It is a comprised of the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note on June 1, plus an additional 2.05%. Graduate students will have to pay 5.41% on loans this fall, or 3.6% over the 10-year Treasury rate. The interest rate on the subsidized portion of the Stafford loan doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, when an extension of the lower rate expired.

This legislation does not affect the Perkins Loan Program, which provides low-interest rate loans for high-need students.


On July 12th, Governor Patrick signed into law the State’s FY14 budget, a $33.6 billion spending plan.  The plan included a $3 million boost in funding for financial aid programs for students, including a significant increase to the MASSGrant program, which provides financial assistance to Massachusetts students. The budget also expands the Completion Incentive Grant Fund, which allows students enrolled at certain campuses to receive a maximum of $8,000 over four years for credits earned towards their degree.

Further investments will focus on workforce development including $19.5 million for the Massachusetts Life Science Center and more than $18 million for MassDevelopment’s Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program.


Moving forward, this fall we will be advocating for the highest possible funding levels for research and education accounts that benefit top priorities for Northeastern related to health, security, and sustainability, as well as cooperative education.