On November 2, President Barack Obama signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314)—a two year budget deal agreed to by the administration and congressional leaders. The budget package provides $80 billion, or 5%, in relief from mandatory budget caps for discretionary spending over two years—split equally between defense and nondefense programs—and suspends the federal debt limit through March 15, 2017. The added discretionary spending is allocated by $50 billion in FY2016 and $30 billion in FY2017. The package includes an additional $32 billion over two years for defense and nondefense security programs from the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund. That account does not count against the discretionary spending caps.
The increased discretionary spending is paid for with cuts in the Social Security Disability Insurance fund, Medicare payments to doctors and other health-care providers, crop insurance subsidies, and other areas. New revenue will be raised, in part, by auctioning off portions of the government-owned broadcast spectrum and selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
While this new deal raises topline budget caps, Congress still needs to determine specific appropriations levels for FY2016 before current funding expires on December 11. This budget deal, however, provides additional room for increased investments in higher education and research programs.
A coalition of higher education and research organizations sent a letter to congressional appropriatorsis calling on them to invest the additional 5% in education and research programs. The letter notes the impact of sequestration and "the failure of federal research and development funding to keep pace with inflation in recent years," combined with the surge in research funding "in other nations such as China and South Korea and a number of European countries."