There's never enough money, it seems. Virtually every spring and summer, as Congress begins to allocate federal funds for the next fiscal year, lawmakers face some of their most vexing dilemmas in the bill that appropriates funds for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, which provides the bulk of federal domestic spending.
There are many miles (and, more literally, possibly several months) to go before the federal budgeting process for the 2009 fiscal year is complete, and therefore much could change. But based on the initial signs, the latest of which came Tuesday when a Senate appropriations subcommittee drafted a spending bill for education, health and labor programs, the National Institutes of Health appears to be in line for the sort of hefty increase that biomedical research advocates have been begging for. Most student aid programs, however, would receive no new funds.
The numbers will not surprise anyone who has closely tracked federal budget discussions about science and technology in recent years. But that won't make the data released Friday by the National Science Foundation any more palatable for those concerned about the American research enterprise.