Share Tweet Share Email

Federal update: Extended spending resolutions stave off government shutdown for two weeks

March 9, 2011
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

Congress returned from its recess last week. The top agenda item remained the FY 2011 budget.

To avert a government shutdown when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expired Friday, March 4, both the House and Senate agreed to a two-week extension of the CR until Friday, March 18.

Included in this CR was $4 billion in cuts; however, nearly 70 percent of the cuts will come from rescinding earmarks previously approved by legislators, with the remaining cuts coming from programs that President Obama already has abandoned. The House and Senate are still very far apart in terms of their budget numbers for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The Senate Democrats have publicized their initial offer on a long-term CR.

There are some cuts in the Senate proposal, but the bill would keep the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550 and it also would keep the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOGs) funded at $757 million. Further, nearly all research programs would be funded at higher levels than the CR passed by the House (HR 1), although the funding levels are lower than current operating levels for some key research agencies and accounts.

President Obama did bring together the Congressional leaders to begin face-to-face spending cut negotiations with his administration. It seems doubtful that there is enough time to complete negotiations for the remainder of the fiscal year before the CR expires March 18, so it is likely that there will be another short-term CR that also will include additional cuts.

In other news, the Senate is poised to act upon the first substantial patent law rewrite in over 50 years this week.

There has been a considerable amount of debate about the intent to change from “first to invent” to “first to file” as the guiding principle behind awarding patents. It is intended that this legislation will give the United States Patent and Trademark Office the tools and funding that it needs to serve all inventors.

According to the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, this bill will provide immediate and long-term benefits by enhancing the quality of patents, improving and simplifying the application and review process, and curtailing the time applicants must wait for a patent to issue. It will encourage practices that will facilitate protections U.S. inventions in foreign markets and provide more certainty for all inventors.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of federal relations for NIU.