In Depth

A longer spending freeze

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 812
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6314.812

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Summary

This week Congress returned for a short lame-duck session. And the first thing Republican leaders did was delay completion of a 2017 spending bill until after Donald Trump takes office—a decision that forces science agencies to tread water. All agency budgets are now frozen at 2016 levels under what is called a continuing resolution (CR), which prohibits starting new programs or expanding existing initiatives. Congressional spending panels have spent months working on a dozen bills that would fund the government through September 2017. But those measures would also have needed to pass muster with President Barack Obama. So the Republican leadership decided to extend the CR, which expires on 9 December, until 31 March, which is two months into the Trump administration. A separate bill to spur drug development and bolster biomedical research remains in limbo. A longer CR will likely stall high-profile Obama initiatives in precision medicine, neuroscience, and cancer at the National Institutes of Health, and delay boosts to high performance computing and a new neutrino experiment within the Department of Energy. It also complicates a planned upgrading of the academic research fleet by the National Science Foundation: A House spending panel has declined to fund the request for two ships, while a Senate panel wants to build three ships.