Policy Update: September 27, 2011

Continuing Resolution

As of today, none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been enacted into law. In order to keep the Government running beyond the 30th, last night the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) by a vote of 79 to 12 and the House is expected to ratify it, but it may only last a few days. The House passed CR includes an across-the-board cut to all federal programs of 1.53% to reflect the $7 billion cut in FY12 discretionary spending agreed to as part of the August debt ceiling deal.

House Republicans have signaled that they hope FY12 appropriations, likely in the form of an Omnibus Appropriations Bill, can be completed by the end of November. Final funding for all programs is subject to change in the Omnibus, but given the overall cut necessary, it is likely that most programs will see their final funding cut by at least the level of reduction in the CR mention above.

Senate FY12 Appropriations Bills

Since returning from the August recess, action on appropriations legislation has turned to the Senate. (The House previously marked up all of its bills except for Labor-HHS-Education and Transportation-HUD.) In most cases the Senate Appropriations Committee has made relatively modest cuts, but we won't know the final funding amounts until an Omnibus Appropriations bill is passed.


  • Cuts $308 million in discretionary funding from FY11 levels. This includes a 0.37% cut to the Department of Health and Human Services compared to FY11, while small increases are provided for the Department of Education and the Department of Labor. Of particular note, the bill provides $30.5 billion,, to a decrease of $190 million, to fund biomedical research at the NIH. It would also provide funding sufficient to maintain the current maximum Pell Grant Award at $5,550 for 2012-2013. The House does not have the votes to pass their version of the bill.


  • Cuts $626 million below the FY11 level. Specifically, the bill includes a 2.4% cut to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a 2.8% cut to NASA. The bill cuts the NSF Research and Related Activities (R&RA) Account by $120.8 million. In contrast, the House version of the bill level-funded the NSF at $6.9 billion and increased R&RA by $43 million. The bill also provided $5 billion for NOAA, $434 million above the FY2011 enacted level. NIST would receive $680 million, a $70 million cut from FY11.


  • Freezes or level fund the Pentagon at the FY11 level of $513 billion. However, the bill included a 7% increase for 6.1 basic research, fully funding basic research programs across the Services and DARPA. This is slightly below the 6.1 basic research increase included in the draft House DOD Appropriations bill (7.8% increase).


  • Provides $41 billion, $666 million or 1.6% less thanFY11. Specifically, the bill provides $800 million, $28 million below FY 2011 and $261 million above the House bill for Science and Technology, including $36.5 million for the University Programs Science and Technology Account, which funds Northeastern's ALERT Center. This matched the level of funding provided in the House draft bill.

Energy and Water:

  • Provides a $70 million increase for the Department of Energy's ARPA-E program to $250 million. In contrast, the House draft bill would cut ARPA–E by $80 million. The Senate mark also includes level funding for DOE Office of Science at $4.483 billion, $55 million more than funding provided in theHouse bill. EERE would also be level funded at $1.79 billion.

Deficit Reduction "Super Committee":

  • Continues to meet to examine proposals to come up with an additional $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in budget savings by Thanksgiving. Last week, President Obama outlined his plan calling for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit by $3.5 billion over 10 years.


We will continue to monitor the appropriations endgame as an Omnibus Bill emerges, and we will urge Congress to protect research and financial aid funding. Please see the recent letter to Senator Kerry, a member of the Super Committee, that President Aoun signed with other Massachuetts university presidents.