House Resolution 
 Senate Resolution 
 Conference Resolution 
 Budget Process 
President's Request 

Fiscal Year 2001 Congressional Budget Resolution (4-14-00)

Many people still remember the partisan rhetoric and strong pleas to reduce the federal deficit during debate over the 1997 budget agreement, but times have changed.  The federal government is no longer working in a deficit, instead this year marks the second surplus with projections of more surpluses in years to come.  As a result of the 1997 debate, Congress and the President agreed on fixed caps on discretionary spending (non-mandatory spending that includes nearly all funding for science-related programs) designed to help the government balance its books and pay off the national debt.  The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program has developed a PDF graph showing the spending levels and 1997 budget caps for the last few years.  As the chart shows, Congress and the Administration overshot the budget caps last year by nearly $55 billion.  Budget players have used many inventive ways to give the facade of staying within the caps, but, with last year's discretionary spending well over the caps, Congress and the President have decided that there needs to be a new budget agreement (not to mention that it is an election year).

According to the 1997 agreement, the fiscal year (FY) 2001 caps would require that Congress and the Administration make deep cuts of nearly ten percent in all discretionary spending, an option that most poloticians are hesitant to embrace.  Therefore, President Clinton's budget request replaces the 1997 caps with modified caps that would be more than $70 billion higher than the 1997 agreement.  The newly proposed caps would allow for modest increases in future years as the caps increases at the expected rate of inflation as calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Clinton's proposal to change the caps and request for substantial increases in most federal agencies has proven to be a very difficult sell.

Each year, the Congress composes a Budget Resolution that sets forth a Congressional budget plan for at least five years.  According to the House Budget Committee Glossary of Budget Terms, the resolution "consists of spending and revenue targets and is implemented through subsequent legislation, including appropriations acts and changes in laws that affect revenues and direct spending."  Unlike bills, the budget resolution does not require the President's signature and does not become law, making it a non-binding fiscal blueprint.  Both chambers of Congress have developed their five-year budget resolution that will cover FY2001 to FY2005.  Floor debate on the House resolution (H. Rept. 106-530) passed by a partisan 211 - 207 vote in the wee hours of March 24th.  On April 4th, the Senate began three days of floor debate on the Senate resolution (S. Con. Res. 101) that passed by a 51 - 45 vote.  The two chambers met in conference on April 12th and released their Conference report (H. Rept. 106-577) the same day.  The following day, both chambers passed the conference report version of the budget agreement, the House passed it by a partisan 220-208 vote and the Senate passed it by a 50-48 vote.



House Budget Resolution
On March 20th, the House Budget Committee released its report (H. Rept. 106-530) that became H. Con. Res. 290 (the House Budget Resolution).  Committee Chairman Rep. John Kasich (R-OH), the author and sponsor of the resolution, released a statement that said that this proposed budget "seeks to eliminate the public debt, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, cut taxes and meet priorities for defense and education."  The resolution would provide for $1.823 trillion for FY2001 and $596.5 billion for discretionary spending while safeguarding the projected $1.9 trillion non-Social Security surplus.  Besides saving Social Security, the resolution hopes to eliminate the $3.6 trillion in public debt by 2013, cut taxes by more than $150 billion over five years, reform Medicare and provide benefits for prescription drugs, strengthen national defense, improve education, increase funding for basic research (particularly at the National Institutes of Health and for agriculture sciences), and improving veteran health care programs.  House Democrats, led by Ranking Member John Spratt (D-SC), say that the resolution is unrealistic and would require deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending.

While the Budget Committee was still finalizing its numbers, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) urged his colleagues to support boosting the FY2001 numbers for function 250, the general science, space and technology programs.  In a "Dear Colleague" letter (the full text and summary of activities are available in a March 23rd AGU Science Legislative Alert), Ehlers wrote: "Shortchanging science in this year's appropriations process would be particularly worrisome given that much of our current economic success results from past federal investment made in basic research."  In the final budget resolution, Ehlers and 77 co-signers succeeded in raising funding levels for function 250 by nearly $1 billion over the FY 2000 level.  Also included in the resolution was a section on the importance of the National Science Foundation that stated: "It is the sense of Congress that function 250 (Basic Sciences) levels assume an amount of funding which ensures that the National Science Foundation is a priority in the resolution; recognizing the National Science Foundation's critical roles in funding basic research, which leads to the innovations that assure the Nation's economic future, and in cultivating America's intellectual infrastructure."  Below is a chart of the budget resolution numbers for key functions for the geosciences.
 

House Budget Resolution (in billions)
Functional Categories
FY2000
FY2001 
FY2002
FY2003
FY2004
FY2005
 
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
General Science, Space & Technology (250)
$19.3
$18.5
$19.8
$19.3
$19.9
$19.6
$20.0
$19.6
$20.1
$19.6
$20.3
$19.8
Energy (270)
$1.1
-$0.6
$1.2
-$1.0
$0.7
-$0.4
$0.5
-$0.7
$0.4
-$0.9
$0.3
-$0.9
Natural Resources & Environment (300)
$24.3
$24.2
$25.0
$24.8
$25.1
$25.1
$25.2
$25.2
$25.3
$25.2
$25.4
$25.1



Senate Budget Resolution
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) chairs the Senate Budget Committee, which wrote the Senate budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 101), and wrote a Chairman's Mark report on this resolution.  In the opening of the report, Domenici states that this resolution will "establish responsible funding levels for national security and domestic spending programs that will be followed through the annual appropriation process this year and that will provide realistic planning estimates for the next five years."

Similar to the House resolution, the Senate resolution aims to preserve and protect Social Security, balance the non-Social Security trust fund budget every year, reduce the amount of public debt; establish responsible, realistic funding levels for national security and domestic spending programs, reform federal funding for education, develop a Medicare prescription drug benefit program, decrease taxes, and provide aid to farmers.  In order to better enforce the findings in the budget resolution, the Senate endorsed provisions within the resolution, such as the Social Security Lockbox, which requires that surpluses from the Social Security trust fund not be used to balance the federal books.  The resolution would also establish reserves for specific activities (education, prescription drugs, agriculture) and "fire walls" for defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

During Senate floor debate, Senator Teddy Kennedy (D-MA) -- supported by Sens. Bill Frist (R-TN), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Charles Robb (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA) -- introduced an amendment to protect and strengthen civilian and military budgets for research and development and for science and technology.  The amendment was tabled (meaning it was not voted on during the floor debate) but the hope is to reintroduce the amendment in the FY2000 supplemental appropriations that is next on the agenda after the budget resolution conference is complete. Below are the Senate budget resolution figures for basic sciences, energy and environmental functions of the budget.
 

Senate Budget Resolution (in billions)
Functional Categories
FY2000
FY2001 
FY2002
FY2003
FY2004
FY2005
 
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
General Science, Space & Technology (250)
$19.3
$18.4
$19.7
$19.2
$19.9
$19.6
$19.8
$19.5
$20.1
$19.7
$20.3
$19.9
Energy (270)
$1.1
-$0.6
$1.5
$0.2
-$0.3
-$1.44
$1.2
-$0.4
$1.2
-$0.1
$1.2
-$0.9
Natural Resources & Environment (300)
$24.5
$24.3
$24.9
$24.9
$25.0
$25.0
$25.0
$25.2
$25.1
$25.1
$25.1
$24.9



Conference Budget Resolution
The Senate appointed Pete Domenici (R-NM), Charles Grassley (R-IA), "Kit" Bond (R-MO), Slade Gorton (R-WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to the conference committee.  The House appointed John Kasich (R-OH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), John Spratt (D-SC), and Rush Holt (D-NJ) to the conference committee.  After meeting to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget resolution, the conference committee released their report (H. Rept. 106-577) on April 13th.  Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) originally included a controversial provision calling for oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Senate budget resolution.  The Senate version included $1.2 billion in revenue from ANWR that would be raised from a lease sale in 2005.  The final conference version of the budget resolution removed this provision -- more information on ANWR is available at the AGI ANWR update.  On the same day as the report release, the House accepted the report in a partisan 220 - 208 vote, and the Senate accepted the report in a partisan 50 - 48 vote.  Below are the conference numbers for programs affecting the geosciences.
 

Conference Budget Resolution (in billions)
Functional Categories
FY2000
FY2001 
FY2002
FY2003
FY2004
FY2005
 
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
New Budget Authority
Outlays
General Science, Space & Technology (250)
$19.3
$18.4
$20.3
$19.4
$20.4
$20.0
$20.6
$20.0
$20.8
$20.2
$21.0
$20.5
Energy (270)
$1.1
-$0.6
$1.3
$0
$0.2
-$0.9
$0.9
-$0.4
$0.8
-$0.5
$0.8
-$0.5
Natural Resources & Environment (300)
$24.5
$24.2
$25.1
$25.0
$25.2
$25.2
$25.2
$25.3
$25.3
$25.2
$25.3
$25.1


Sources: Senate Budget Committee Website, House Budget Committee Website, Thomas Legislative Information Service, Greenwire, AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program website, the American Geophysical Union website, the American Institute of Physics FYI Bulletin, Washington Post, and Energy & Environment Publishing.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program

Posted April 14, 2000


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