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The Looming Budget Fight

The fiscal year in the US starts in October, but Nature News writes that a budget deal might not be reached by then, leading to uncertainty for federally funded researchers.

It notes that when lawmakers come back into session in September, they'll only have a few weeks to agree on spending levels for fiscal year 2016. However, rather than doing that, it's more likely that a temporary deal will be put into place as a final one is hashed out, Nature News adds. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said, according to Roll Call, that the House will pursue a continuing resolution upon its return.

"We're basically headed into a period of frustration where nothing's going to happen for a couple months, and we're just going to have to deal with it," Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, tells Nature News.

Nature News notes that President Obama, in protest of the across-the-board sequestration cuts, has threatened to veto many of budget bills introduced by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Under those bills, some science agencies' budgets would increase, while others would see a decrease or a funneling of funds to specific sub-disciplines. Under the current proposals, the National Institutes of Health, for instance, would receive a $1.1 billion boost, under the House version, or an additional $2 billion, under the Senate version. Other agencies like NASA and NOAA, though, would see their budgets decline.

The budget proposals for the National Science Foundation have been more heated as the House bill allocates some 70 percent of the agency's funding to its biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences divisions, cutting funding, in essence, from its geoscience and social science divisions.

A short-term deal would avoid a shutdown like the one that occurred in 2013, but Zeitzer says she's heard "there's a real good chance they'll take us to the brink."