Congressional Update: Dead-locked Debt Fight Overshadows Priorities

Congressional Update: Dead-locked Debt Fight Overshadows Priorities

While Congress – and Washington, D.C. as a whole – has been mostly pre-occupied with the debate about raising the debt ceiling, the regular order of preparing legislation to fund the government for FY12 has been moving through the House of Representatives.  Our industry’s spending priorities face tough challenges in getting funding in the current sour budget environment.  SEMI is working hard in Washington to urge lawmakers to support vital programs.

Energy Spending

On July 15, the House voted to pass the Energy and Water spending bill.  This bill is important to many SEMI member companies since it funds the Department of Energy (DOE).  A key focus is the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) which includes the Solar Energy Technology Program and energy efficiency programs that include semiconductor technology.  The Energy and Water bill also funds the DOE Office of Science which conducts basic energy research. 

In April, Congress reached an agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year, narrowing avoiding a government shutdown.  Energy programs were a target of spending cuts in the final agreement.  We see this again reflected in the proposal for next year’s funding. 

  • DOE:  The House passed the FY12 Energy and Water Appropriations bill in mid-July with a total allocation of $30.6 billion.  This is $1 billion below the FY11 enacted bill and $5.9 billion below the President’s request.   
  • EERE:  The biggest DOE cuts come from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  This office is slated to receive $491 million below the FY11 enacted level and $1.9 billion below the President's request.  This includes $97 million in cuts to the Solar Technologies program.  The EERE FY12 proposals come on top of cuts of $438 million in the FY11 appropriations.  For comparison, the size of the FY10 budget was $1.8 billion. 
  • Office of Science:  The bill cuts $42 billion from the DOE Office of Science. 
  • ARPA-E:  A bright spot during the consideration of the bill on the House floor was the narrow passage of an amendment by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), which increased funding for the ARPA-E program by nearly $80 million to $180 million.  ARPA-E was originally authorized in the 2007 America COMPETES Act.  It is an independent agency within the DOE that concentrates its efforts on innovative and disruptive energy technologies.  

SEMI recently sent a letter to the leadership of the Appropriations Committee to urge support for these important programs.  We continue to work with policymakers to try and strengthen funding in the Energy and Water appropriations bill before it reaches the President’s desk.

Federal Investments in Basic Science and R&D

On July 13, the full House Appropriations Committee passed the FY12 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  This bill funds some of our top priorities related to promoting R&D and technology development in the United States – the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

While President Obama’s FY12 request maintained the commitment to invest 3 percent of GDP in R&D, the House Appropriations Committee proposal falls short of that mark. 

  • NSF:  The bill provides flat funding from the previous year at $6.9 billion for FY12.  This is $907 million below the President’s request.   
  • NIST:  This agency would be cut by $49 million to total budget of $701 million.  The bill would shift $10 million internally for additional core research activities. 

While SEMI understands the tough budget environment, erosion of support for these programs that work to create innovation and spur economic growth is counterproductive.  We expect the full House of Representatives to consider the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill in the coming weeks and SEMI continues to push for funding for these important programs.

If you have any questions related to federal public policy, please contact Jamie Girard, senior manager of Public Policy, at jgirard@semi.org

August 2, 2011