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Diverging 302(b)s and their Impact on R&D

Key to any discussion of the federal budget are 302(b)s, the funding amount allocated to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. From these toplines, the chair and ranking members of each subcommittee can start to parse out the funding levels for each program their subcommittee has jurisdiction over, and are one of the big battles when it comes to deciding what to fund and cut back.

302(b)s are not decided jointly between the two chambers – both the House and Senate decide their 302(a), the total discretionary amount, and their 302(b)s separately. This gives each chamber the ability to display their fiscal priorities, and then common ground is worked out afterwards in conferencing (the formal process of reconciling differences) once both chambers are done.

The Senate’s 302(b)s were released last week and their numbers are quite different from the House’s numbers revealed the week prior week, foreshadowing a tough path for the appropriations bills this summer. The House and Senate 302(b) allocations and comparisons to FY 2023 final estimates are listed in the table below.

A table showing the 2023 final budget, 2024 house and 2024 senate total for each of the appropriations subcommittees, as well as the difference between the house and senate's numbers from the last fiscal year.

Some notable 302(b)s are Commerce-Justice-Science, also known as CJS, which houses NSF, NASA, NOAA, and NIST and is seeing a pretty significant cut in both the House and Senate allocations. It’s too early to tell how much these R&D intensive agencies will bear the brunt of the proposed cut – as compared to the Commerce and Justice sides of the CJS account– but they will likely see some cuts. This will greatly impact implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act authorizations, which has been a prominent advocacy focus this appropriations cycle.

For other subcommittees the Senate scaled back the House’s cuts, with Energy and Water, Labor HHS and Interior receiving smaller cuts, and Agriculture potentially receiving an increase.

If we assume that all R&D cuts will end up proportional to total discretionary cuts in aggregate (a big if, there’s been both promises to not cut R&D funding, and already some floor markups that have carved significant funding out of R&D programs in the Agriculture, Energy & Water and Defense bills), we could potentially expect a $2 billion cut in R&D funding from FY 2023 levels from the Senate, as compared to a potential $16 billion cut in the House. Both scenarios are mapped onto CBO reporting of total R&D spending in the graph below.

A graph showing estimates of U.S. R7D spending from 2010 to 2033, with the estimated R&D values for the House and Senate's current discretionary plans added.

When the Fiscal Responsibility Act was revealed, we discussed how these cuts to R&D funding would have lasting impacts on the STEM enterprise, both nationally and in respect to our standing as a global R&D superpower. While we don’t know how the appropriations cycle will end, both sets of 302(b)s right now promise cuts and will slow down the U.S.’s ability to innovate and compete. And as the appropriation cycle continues, look to our R&D appropriations dashboard for updates.


Alessandra Zimmermann

Analyst / Writer