Four months and three work stoppages into fiscal 1996, whole departments and agencies of the United States federal government remain in budgetary limbo. Five annual spending bills still await approval, and parts of nine federal departments and several agencies face the possibility of yet another shutdown, as the current continuing resolution for temporary funding expires on March 15.
In the wake of the recent three-week shutdown of the federal government, congressional leaders worked in January to ease future political pain by funding a list of “essential services” for the remainder of the fiscal year. Deemed essential were government programs with the most immediate and conspicuous public impact, such as the National Parks Service and the Passport Services Office. Included on that list of essential services was the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which not only received full funding for the entire fiscal year but also got a 5.7% increase over its 1995 budget.