Congress Returns To Resume Frantic Fall Agenda

By PAA Web posted 09-17-2021 09:34


With the summer and Jewish holidays behind them, Congress has returned to what promises to be a very busy fall! The agenda includes several major federal spending bills, including all 12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills, a budget reconciliation package, and an infrastructure bill. What happens on several of these matters has implications for the population research field.

FY 2022 Continuing Resolution

US SenateThe current fiscal year (FY) 2021, ends on September 30. Given the lack of progress made on passing FY 2022 appropriations bills, it will be necessary for Congress and the White House to agree upon the terms of a short-term spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR will fund federal agencies through a specific deadline while Congress works to draft and pass all 12 FY 2022 appropriations bills. Typically, except for a few “anomalies,” a CR holds spending for federal agencies at the previous year’s level. The White House has submitted a list of anomaly requests, which include two of interest to the population research community.

As part of its list, the White House urged Congress to include an anomaly in the CR for the Census Bureau. Specifically, the anomaly would provide the Census Bureau with sufficient funds to deliver 2020 Census data products, begin planning for the 2030 Census, maintain peak operations of the Economic Census, and support innovations as part of the Data Ingest and Collection for the Enterprise (DICE) program. In addition, the list included a request to grant the National Institutes of Health (NIH) disbursement authority through FY 2022 for multi-year awards made using FY 2016 appropriations. In its explanation to Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget said, “Without the [NIH] anomaly, targeted funds would not be available for disbursement and affected projects would be negatively impacted.”

Congress will consider the FY 2022 CR the week of September 20. It is likely that CR will keep the federal government funded through December 3 or 10.

When Congress and the White House fail to pass a CR, it results in a highly disruptive, temporary federal government shutdown. This year, the impending CR faces a potential challenge if Congress decides to include language in the bill extending the federal government’s borrowing authority. On September 8, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed Congress that her department may not be able to extend extraordinary measures to fund the government past the expected default in mid-October. Leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate are discussing which legislative vehicle should be used to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling.

PAA is joining other scientific and public health organizations in urging Congress and the Administration to pass a short-term CR and finalize FY 2022 appropriations measures. Most notably, PAA, as a member of the Coalition for Health Funding, contributed to a toolkit that the coalition prepared, illustrating the negative impact CRs have on public health and scientific research programs.

Budget Reconciliation

Throughout September, congressional committees, especially in the House of Representatives, have been drafting their portions of a broader budget reconciliation bill. Ultimately, the committees’ contributions will be folded into one bill known as the Build Back Better Act. Some provisions key committees have authored would provide $3 billion to establish President Biden’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) and provide $15 million for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct research on “interventions to mitigate the effects of the COVID–19 public health emergency on pregnant, lactating, and postpartum individuals, with a particular focus on individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups.”

The House Science Committee contributed several provisions regarding the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would provide the agency, overall, with an additional $11 billion over 10 years. Research and development funds within this total would be used to “fund or extend new and existing research awards, scholarships, and fellowships across all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and STEM education disciplines, to fund use-inspired and translational research and development awards, entrepreneurial education, and technology transfer activities, to extend existing research awards and scholarships and fellowships to aid in the recovery from COVID-19 related disruptions, and for related administrative expenses.” Further, $400 million would be reserved for climate change research and $700 million set aside for research at minority-serving institutions.

The House Budget Committee is responsible for combining the committees various contributions into broader budget reconciliation package (“Build Back Better Act”), which will be on the floor of the House, ideally, the week of September 27.

PAA may be issuing action alerts to encourage members of Congress to support passage of the CR as well as the budget reconciliation package. The Office of Government and Public Affairs is monitoring developments on these critically important funding bills and will keep PAA members apprised if grassroots action is needed to help secure their passage.