Washington Gridlock Could Block Industry Research Funding

The latest standoff on Capitol Hill could have some implications for the floral industry, including future funding for floriculture and nursery research initiative activities, says Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations.

“Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to work within the sequester-imposed limits for domestic spending in the federal budget, but Democrats have threatened to block any appropriations bills until Republicans agree to spend more money than that agreement allows,” McBurney says. “With both sides digging in, there could be an impact on budgets that affect programs and services important to the floral industry.”

The back and forth over spending limits isn’t new, McBurney says. In 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated an agreement that increased spending levels for defense and nondefense discretionary spending equally above the sequester level for two years, offset by fee increases and changes to mandatory programs; however, that agreement was never approved by Congress, so sequester levels remain in place.

“Republicans should be warned right here, right now: Democrats are not going to help you pass appropriations bills that lock in senseless, automatically triggered cuts that hurt the middle class,” Vice Chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference (and heir-apparent Senate Democrat Leader) Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in April.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) countered: “Do I believe we can come to an agreement while the president’s still in office? No, because the president keeps saying he wants to raise taxes. The challenge with the sequester is the president says the only way he’ll lift it is if you raise taxes. That’s not [going to] happen.”

Although the House and Senate have, for the first time in many years, proceeded rapidly in moving several spending measures under “regular order” (the practice of considering individual spending measures and voting on them as the rules outline instead of passing one or two massive omnibus measures that lump several bills together), that progress “could grind to a halt in the next few weeks,” McBurney says.

“Spending bills that traditionally attract the most contentious partisan fights are going to be taken up by the committees,” he says. “They include measures that fund the Environmental Protection Agency, border control and Health and Human Services office that implements the Affordable Care Act, among others.”

Another bill that may get caught in the spending whipsaw is the Agriculture Appropriations bill that includes funding for the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, although the Initiative is unlikely to be seriously impacted.

The Initiative funds research, conducted by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and university scientists, focused on addressing and solving the industry’s issues and needs. ARS works closely with representatives of AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists in setting the research priorities and goals of this Initiative.

“Although the bill usually isn’t that contentious, this year it contains provisions that block several Obama Administration regulations,” McBurney says. “Combined with sequester-level spending limits, those regulations may prevent its smooth passage.”

Click here to read the article on SAF’s website.

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