Date: July 1st, 2013
When purchasing a home, many couples experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions stemming from the numerous decisions they must make together—decisions that affect each other and their future. From choosing a preferred house style, to coming up with a list of “must have” features, the negotiations can seem endless, and a compromise can be daunting.
The most contentious debate among fiscally conscious homebuyers is usually not about the decision to purchase a Tudor or a Colonial; it typically involves establishing an upper limit for what should be spent on that dream home. While they may seem like two different scenarios, the conversations you had with your partner about how much to spend on your home, and the discussions occurring in Washington over how Congress should fund federal programs in fiscal year 2014, have more similarities than you might think.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a budget resolution in March. The proposal has reduction in government spending at its core. The Democratic-held Senate passed its own budget two days later, which puts an emphasis on funding federal programs above a reduction in spending. It’s as if the Senate is looking at a single-family home while the House has its eyes on a condo. Despite passage of both bills and calls from several members of each party to appoint conferees who would work toward a bipartisan agreement to resolve differences between the House and Senate budget proposals, we find ourselves in a lengthy stalemate driven by competing ideologies, and nowhere near a budget agreement to establish funding levels for the fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills.
In the absence of a budget agreement, the House and Senate appropriations committees responsible for passing 13 appropriations bills to fund federal programs every year are making decisions about their own funding levels. Known formally as 302(b) allocations, the House Appropriations Committee set an allocation that is 22 percent less than the prior fiscal year, while the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to set a much higher allocation in anticipation that automatic, across-the-board cuts mandated by sequestration will be repealed.
The markedly different allocations set by each committee can create problems for future fiscal negotiations. The bottom line is that these maneuvers are not moving us forward. Congress needs to come to an agreement that members of both chambers can deal with—one that also averts further cuts required under sequestration and establishes rational funding levels for fiscal year 2014.
Coming to a Compromise
Federal agencies are reeling from harmful sequester cuts that took effect in March. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation's medical research agency, was forced to apply a 5 percent cut evenly across all programs, projects, and activities affecting every area of medical research. Approximately 700 fewer research grants will be issued because of sequestration, resulting in a delay in medical progress.
Medical breakthroughs are not immediate. They result from years of incremental research to understand how a disease starts and progresses. Even after the cause and potential drug target of a disease is discovered, it takes on average 13 years and $1 billion to develop a treatment. The NIH anticipates that the sequester cuts will delay research to develop more effective treatments for diseases affecting millions of Americans and to prevent debilitating chronic conditions that are costly to the nation.
It all comes down to priorities. The White House is ready to work with Congress to repeal the sequester and further reduce deficits while continuing to make critical investments. Now is the time to reach out to your members of Congress to let them know that you believe a budget agreement that protects NIH funding is critical to the nation. Just as you may have given up that two-car garage or renovated kitchen to buy into a better school district, there needs to be a decision to prioritize what matters to our country’s future—a compromise to improve and sustain our health!