With a week to go, House and Senate budget negotiators are approaching a deal to set spending levels for fiscal year 2014 and avoid another round of sequestration. POLITICO reported Thursday night that the lead negotiatiors, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), are only “a few billion dollars apart” on a deal, with a deadline of December 13. Murray and Ryan have reported found ways to raise overall discretionary spending from $967 billion to “near” $1 trillion through alternative spending reductions and the addition of revenue through fees (as opposed to taxes) while maintaining deficit reduction targets. If a budget deal is reached, those spending levels in the budget deal will go to appropriators to craft spending bills.
With a deal in sight, one group of scientists is asking its members to push for increased discretionary spending in it. “We have recently heard from the House Majority Leader’s staff that now is the time to raise our voices to support ending the sequester and reinvesting in crucial discretionary programs like those in basic research,” wrote the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in a notice to its members Wednesday. The AAS asked its members to contact their members to press for increased R&D spending in any final budget deal. “Right now, the clearest message we can send (alongside many partners) is that investments in discretionary programs like basic research, far from being drivers of our debt, are crucial for producing the long-term economic growth that will help us address our debt.”
The president isn’t directly involved in the budget deal, but The Planetary Society has a request for him: increase NASA’s budget for planetary science. “Mr. President: we strongly recommend that you make sure that funding for the planetary science program is at least $1.5 billion dollars per year,” wrote Bill Nye, CEO of the organization, in an open letter to the President published Thursday. It was unclear if the society was referring to the FY 2014 appropriations awaiting the outcome of the budget deal, and/or the FY15 budget proposal that the administration will release early next year.