APS News

Washington Dispatch

A budget deal between Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been struck. The budget proposal is a two-year agreement that authorizes discretionary spending for fiscal years 2014 (FY14) and 2015 (FY15). The deal revises spending for defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary categories, increasing spending for each by $22B in FY14 and $9B in FY15 above the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, effectively reversing a portion of sequester cuts. Total spending for defense discretionary in FY14 is capped at $520B and in FY15 is $521B. Total spending for non-defense discretionary is capped at $491B in FY14 and at $492B in FY15. Overall spending is set at $1,012B in FY14, exactly splitting the difference between House and Senate budget plans. The agreement uses a number of offsets for the spending increases, such as increased federal-employee contribution to retirement programs for new hires, rescinding available funds for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increasing aviation security service fees, and limiting compensation for government contractors.

The reaction to the budget deal has been guardedly positive among lawmakers and mixed outside the beltway. Indeed, even before the budget deal was reached, conservative think tanks such as Heritage Action had already come out against the deal. And now that a deal has been struck, additional conservative groups are lamenting, with the Cato Institute calling the package a "huge Republican cave-in" and FreedomWorks calling it "a surrender." Rep. Paul Ryan downplayed the actions of conservative think tanks, stating "[g]roups are going to do what they want" and even calling such action "the new normal." House Speaker John Boehner called the outcry from conservative groups "ridiculous." 

Speaker Boehner, ignoring outside pressure, brought the Ryan-Murray plan to a vote within days of its release. The plan, H.J. Res. 59, passed 332-94, with 169 Republicans voting for, 62 against and 163 Democrats voting for, 32 against. 

As APS News goes to press, action is shifting to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said the bill "will have to wait until a series of confirmation votes on presidential nominees" that had been held up by Republicans are completed. The delay will allow proponents time to muster the 60 votes needed for passage.

If the compromise is signed into law, appropriators will have just under a month to implement the budget plan in appropriations language that would modify or replace the Continuing Resolution set to expire on January 15. Exactly how appropriators will choose to spend the additional $45B is uncertain. Moreover, the plan does not deal with the debt ceiling, which will be reached sometime after February 7. 


Michael S. Lubell, director of public affairs for APS, points out in his latest Roll Call column that the Tea Party's political tactics are threatening our nation's scientific enterprise. Read the column

In other news, a broad coalition of groups, including scientific organizations, businesses and associations, recently held a press conference on the negative impact of sequestration.

Media outlets, including the following, picked up the story: Reuters: Companies, academics say budget cuts threaten US competitiveness:  Read story

Coalition of industries and advocates fight sequestration: Read story

POPA would like to welcome its newest members who will begin their service in 2014.

2014 POPA Vice Chair: Bill Barletta; Members: Robin Cote, Michael Marder, Bill McCurdy, Stephen Pratt, James Wells.

The POPA report Renewing Licenses for the Nation's Nuclear Power Plants has been publicly released and can be viewed on the POPA Reports website, along with two other reports completed by POPA in 2013 (A Technical Review: The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Transformational and Applied Research Directorate R&D Program; U.S.-Russian Nuclear Reductions After New START: Summary of a Workshop Exploring Next Steps).

The APS Statement on K-12 Physics Education was approved at the November 2013 Council meeting and can be found on the APS Statements website.

A proposed APS Statement on Undergraduate Research was approved by POPA and the APS Executive Board. It is now posted on the APS website for review by membership, through Friday, January 31, 2014.

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