Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

House and Senate Committees Approve 2017 Spending Bills; Increases Proposed for Agriculture and Veterans Research, Department of Energy Office of Science, and National Science Foundation

Members of Congress returned to Washington following their spring break and immediately turned their attention to the fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bills. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and his Senate counterpart Thad Cochran (R-MS) are pursuing an aggressive schedule in order to complete preliminary consideration of all 12 bills by the time lawmakers leave for their summer recess in mid-July.

On April 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their 302(b) allocations, which set the overall spending levels for the subcommittees. The allocations adhere to the $1.07 trillion overall spending level that was set in the Bipartisan Budget Act approved by Congress last fall. In good news, the subcommittees that fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), veterans’ research, and the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC) received small increases over their FY 2016 levels. However, the subcommittees that determine the budgets for the National Institutes of Health and agricultural research will be working with fewer dollars than they had in 2016.


Subcommittee FY 2017 Allocation Change in Allocation (compared to FY 2016)
Agriculture $21.21 billion -$500 million
Commerce, Justice, Science $56.3 billion +$600 million
Energy and Water $37.5 billion +$355 million
Labor, Health and Human Services $161.9 billion -$200 million
Military Construction-Veterans Affairs $83 billion +$3.1 billion


House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that he will not release the full set of House allocations, contrary to his previous statements. Instead, House allocations will be revealed when each bill is considered by the full committee.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees began the bill-writing process for FY 2017  by approving their respective Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (VA) bills. Under the House measure, the Medical and Prosthetic Research program would receive $663 million, a $32.3 million (five percent) increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. House Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-PA) highlighted the increase for VA research in a press release noting, “It will…maintain the VA’s leadership in cutting edge medical research programs.” The Senate bill provided $675 billion, a $44 million (seven percent) boost for VA research. A Senate Appropriations Committee press release also called attention to the additional funding for medical research.

House appropriators also approved the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which allocated $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a $25 million increase (seven percent) over FY 2016. The bill also provided $1.152 billion for the Agricultural Research Service, approximately $10 million more than current funding.

In his opening remarks at the subcommittee markup, Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) highlighted the importance of USDA research programs, particularly for their role in the government’s efforts to combat citrus greening, avian influenza, and antimicrobial pathogens. Although most members of the subcommittee present were supportive of the bill, objections were raised by Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), both of whom mentioned problematic policy riders in the bill report language related to tobacco and GMO-food labeling. A press release about the bill is available on the Appropriations Committee website.

DOE SC also received a small increase in the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The legislation provided $5.4 billion for DOE SC, an increase of $50 million (0.9 percent) over the FY 2016 enacted level. In his opening statement at the markup, Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) highlighted the important role that DOE SC programs and facilities play in the nation’s scientific enterprise.

On April 14, the full Senate Appropriations Committee passed their Energy and Water bill by a vote of 30-0. Like the House bill, the Senate proposal increases funding for DOE SC to $5.4 billion. In his remarks at the subcommittee markup, Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered words of praise for the bill, noting his desire to double the budget for basic energy research over the next ten years.

Although she expressed some reservations about certain nuclear security provisions in the bill, Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA) was supportive of the measure overall. Senator Feinstein also noted that DOE SC supports scientific work at 300 universities and that DOE facilities are utilized by over 24,000 researchers. The full Senate began debate on the Energy and Water bill this week.

In other appropriations news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill which increased funding for NSF to approximately $7.51 billion, $46 million above FY 2016 enacted levels. Despite the small size of the proposed increase, the committee’s summary of the bill emphasizes the important role of the Foundation in funding basic research across scientific disciplines.