ASTC Advocacy: Update on Continuing Resolution

When we last checked in with you on February 18, the U.S. House of Representatives was in the process of completing work on a fifth “continuing resolution” (CR) that would keep the federal government operating between March 4 (when the fourth CR expires) and the end of fiscal year 2011 on September 30. I’m writing to update you on where things stand and what we might expect in the future.

As you know, ASTC had serious concerns about two particular amendments to the CR (otherwise known as the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 or H.R. 1). The first, Amendment No. 35, was proposed by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5th) and would “reduce funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services by $265.8 million, eliminating funding for the agency.” The second, Amendment No. 471, was proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6th) and would “prohibit funding in the bill from being used to fund non-federal museums.”

ASTC made a strong push to reach out to House leadership and key House Members to urge them to vote against these two amendments—and any others—that would damage the ability of science centers and museums to serve their communities, and I know a number of you responded to our call to action as well. I want to take this opportunity to thank all who assisted us in this effort, and I am pleased to be able to report that ultimately both amendments were withdrawn. As a result, neither amendment was included in the final House version of the bill, which was passed at 4:35 a.m. on February 19 by a 235–189 margin.

That bill, which contains $61 billion less than the FY 2010 federal funding levels and $100 billion less than the FY 2011 budget proposed by the President, now heads to the Senate, where it will be taken up next week. Clearly, there are very significant differences between the House bill and one that the Democratic-majority Senate would favor. Therefore, it is very possible that a compromise won’t be reached during the handful of work days that remain until the March 4 expiration of the current CR. Should that happen, possible scenarios include the passage of another temporary CR that could last a week or two (thereby buying more time to work out a compromise) or even a government shutdown.

ASTC will remain fully engaged on the CR and FY 2011 appropriations, and we will keep you informed of further developments and ways to stay involved. Thank you once again for your help with our advocacy efforts.