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Senate Passes Six-month Stopgap Federal Funding at 2012 Level

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Senate early Saturday morning voted to provide stopgap funding to keep the federal government running for six months at the 2012 level, under a continuing resolution.

By passing the resolution, which cleared the House of Representatives over a week ago, Congress has avoided the need to pass a full-year budget during a campaign season (FY 2012 ends on Sept. 30), and provided stable funding during a period when lawmakers are expected to try to reach a deal to avert large budget cuts that are set to kick in automatically in January.

At the National Institutes of Health, the continuing resolution maintains an even funding at the annual level of $30.7 billion, meaning ongoing activities may continue at the same level as FY 2012 through March.

The Senate passed the continuing resolution around 1:00 AM, just before it adjourned for a break that will last until after the November Presidential and Congressional elections, on a vote of 62 to 30 (8 members did not vote), with several Republicans crossing the aisle to join Democrats in passing the plan.

Lawmakers are expected to consider ways to avoid the looming budget sequester, which would cut all federal discretionary spending by 8.2 percent, including at the NIH, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

This resolution affords lawmakers time to try to strike a deal to reduce the federal deficit and avoid the sequester.

Authorized under last year's Budget Control Act, the sequester would trigger automatic cuts that are not popular with lawmakers in either party and has agency heads across the government concerned about how they will maintain their departmental activities.

The planned slash to the budget at NIH, and at other science-funding agencies, has galvanized the biomedical research community and spurred its leading organizations to speak out against the plan.

"The loss of funds due to sequestration will curtail vital research projects at universities and institutions in all 50 states and result in layoffs of thousands of Americans," Judith Bond, President of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, said in a recent statement.

"Federal funding for research programs are not the source of our nation's debt, and cuts to these and other programs are not the solution to our fiscal problems," said Bond, who also said the sequestration would have "catastrophic consequences" at federal agencies and urged lawmakers to strike a deal to avoid enacting the plan.

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