| CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty|
Barack Obama's fiscal-cliff nightmare is not over yet, leaving funding agencies in limbo.
WASHINGTON, DC - Law-makers in Washington DC greeted the new year with a frantic deal meant to avert a fiscal crisis. But the bill that passed the Senate and the House in pre-dawn votes on 1 and 2 January keeps researchers on tenterhooks for at least another two months by delaying mandatory spending cuts that could threaten science funding.
The last-ditch effort aimed to stave off the effects of the ‘fiscal cliff’: a painful series of tax hikes and budget cuts, scheduled to take effect in 2013, that is meant to reduce the US budget deficit but could push the country’s weak economy back into recession. The cuts, known as the sequester, could shrink federal support for research and development (R&D) by US$57.5 billion over the next five years.
Rancorous last-minute negotiations yielded a tenuous agreement to raise taxes for the wealthy, but deferred decisions on the sequester — an across-the-board reduction of about 8% in nondefence discretionary spending, with at least 9% carved from defence — by two months. “The bill isn’t ideal,” says Eleanor Dehoney, vice-president of public policy at Research!America, a science-advocacy group based in Alexandria, Virginia. “But it does give advocates more time to convince policy-makers that cutting the US investment in R&D is counterproductive.”
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