With fiscal year 1997 (FY '97) set to begin on October 1, the U.S. Congress was poised to fund most American science programs and agencies at or above the levels of funding appropriated in the tumultuous FY '96. Seeking to avert a drawn-out budget debate during an election year, congressional leaders were working feverishly in the last week of September to write appropriations bills that would be acceptable—though not necessarily satisfying—to both Congress and the Clinton Administration.
On September 24, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate approved the conference report of H.R. 3666, the appropriations bill that provides funding for the departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and the Independent Agencies. The conference report of this VA-HUD bill provides $84.7 billion in spending for the affected agencies, including NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The conference report was weighted heavily toward the preferences of the Senate, where moderates and pragmatists were stressing compromise and pushing for appropriations bills that President Clinton would be likely to sign.