News on the Hill - 2012 (Fall)
Sequestration - What is it and what does it mean to me?
|Angela Godby, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Federal Relations for the University of Texas System. She is affected with lamellar/CIE.|
Sequestration. It’s an odd word that will dominate the agenda in Washington, DC this fall. Sequestration is the term used to describe the automatic spending cuts that will go into effect on January 2, 2013 unless Congress acts to stop them.
Facing unprecedented budget deficits and possible default on our federal debt, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. That legislation set up a framework to force all parties to the table to deal with the budget crisis in America. The bill tasked a small group of legislators to come up with a plan to cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years. Unfortunately, that plan never materialized, thus so-called sequestration is set to take place in just a few short months.
What programs does sequestration effect? Well, almost everything except mandatory spending programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and veterans’ benefits. Sequestration will take away over $2.5 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That means that vital biomedical research will be stopped in its tracks. The progress that was made by doubling the NIH budget will be virtually eliminated.
So, will this really happen?? That is the $6 million, or should I say “trillion”, question. After the election, Congress will return to deal with sequestration and other issues in a lame duck Congress. This Congress will be especially unique in that there will be at least 75 members of Congress not returning to the new Congress due to retirements, running for other office, etc. That is not even counting members who will possibly be defeated in the general election and a possible change in the White House. Clearly, it will be tough to get things done.
It’s anyone’s guess as to where we go from here, but the general feeling is that this Congress will temporarily halt the effects of sequestration and let the new Congress deal with it next year. I urge you to contact your local U.S. Representatives and Senators and let them know how devastating cuts to the NIH budget would be to biomedical research and FIRST members.