APS News

Washington Dispatch

Issue: Federal Budget

Section 300 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 provides a timetable (reproduced below) intended to ensure that Congress is able to finish its budgetary work by October 1, the start of the fiscal year. For more than two decades, Congress has not met the timetable, nor has the White House in the recent past. This year is no exception. The president submitted his budget request more than a week late, and neither the House nor the Senate was able to move a budget resolution by the April 15 deadline.

Although the House Budget Committee completed its work on schedule, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of several dozen Republican fiscal hawks, tied up floor action on the legislation, which it found to be too costly, even though it adhered to the spending limits in last December’s two-year budget agreement. The Republican Senate leadership has refused to consider a Budget Resolution until the House has adopted its version. Although the likelihood of passage of a congressional budget resolution is small, it is worth considering several elements contained in the version that passed the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee 21 to 11 on a party-line vote.

The House language would eliminate the Department of Commerce and transfer basic research programs housed in the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and those in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Interior Department. It would severely constrain all federal applied and high-risk research funding, including support for Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) and Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) in the Department of Energy.

In the absence of a Budget Resolution, House and Senate appropriators have begun work on funding bills based upon the total spending limit established last December. Still, given the short legislative calendar in a presidential election year and the objections of fiscal conservatives, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to meet the October 1 deadline and once again resort to a Continuing Resolution followed by an omnibus spending bill.

Standard Budget Timetable

First Monday in February
President’s budget request

February 15
Congressional Budget Office: Economic & Budget Outlook Report

Six weeks after president’s request
Congressional committees send Views & Estimates to Budget Committees

April 1
Senate Budget Committee reports Budget Resolution

April 15
Congress adopts Budget Resolution

May 15
House begins work on appropriations bills even if no Budget Resolution

June 10
House Appropriations Committee reports last appropriations bill

June 15
Congress completes reconciliation bill (if required by Budget Resolution)

June 30
House completes work on all appropriations bills

July 15
President’s mid-session review of White House budget request

October 1
Fiscal year begins


At the APS March Meeting 2016, the APS Office of Public Affairs (OPA) helped 938 meeting attendees make an impact by sending the APS Contact Congress letter to their senators and representatives. The letter advocated for sustained science funding and requested Congress to ask the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of child poverty on STEM performance.

On April 13, 2016, APS participated in the Science, Engineering, & Technology Working Group's "STEM on the Hill" Congressional Visit Day, which sent members of 34 different science organizations to Capitol Hill to advocate for science. OPA's Greg Mack accompanied Zachary Eldredge and David Somers, physics graduate students at the University of Maryland College Park, for meetings with the staffs of Senate and House members.

APS Panel on Public Affairs

The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) subcommittees continued its work in preparation for the Panel's next meeting in June. Each subcommittee was tasked with reviewing previously approved statements for clarity, relevance, context, and endurance and determining if each still provided outreach and advocacy opportunities for the Society. In 2016, there are seven APS statements up for review.

As a follow-on activity to the release of the 2015 APS Statement on Earth's Changing Climate, the POPA Energy and Environment Subcommittee began preliminary activities on a workshop that will provide basic-level training on how to design and plan the development of a greenhouse gas inventory for the Society. The APS Physics and the Public Subcommittee continued to review data emerging from a recent survey on overcoming obstacles in recruiting teachers in the physical sciences. Following the fourth global Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, DC in early April, the POPA National Security subcommittee convened to discuss initiatives and APS future activities that could contribute to the international dialog.

A template for study proposals can be found online, along with a suggestion box for future POPA studies.

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Editor: David Voss
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Art Director and Special Publications Manager: Kerry G. Johnson
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik