Whew. That's what officials at U.S. science agencies and science lobbyists are saying this morning after learning the details of the weekend agreement between the White House and Congress on funding the government for the rest of 2011. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure tomorrow, followed by the Senate on Thursday.
The agreement on a final continuing resolution (CR) for 2011 does take a $38.5 billion cut out of the $1.089 trillion spent in 2010 on discretionary programs across the federal government. That's an "unprecedented" cut, crows the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY).
But it's also much less than scientists feared when the House passed its version of the CR in February, known as H.R. 1.
"We dodged a bullet," says Michael Lubell, a lobbyist for the American Physical Society in Washington, D.C. As Rogers's counterpart, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), explains in a statement today, "The bill preserved critical programs that were targeted for cuts in H.R. 1, including ... vital scientific and medical research."
For the National Institutes of Health, the final agreement means a cut of roughly 1% from its current $31 billion budget. The National Science Foundation takes a similar 1% hit, to $6.8 billion. Both faced much larger cuts in the House bill.