Budgets for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and most federal agencies other than the Pentagon will not be finalized until Congress reconvenes for a "lame duck" session after the November elections. And if past is prelude, the fiscal year (FY) 2005 budget, which began October 1, may not be enacted until a new Congress, and possibly a new administration, take office in January.

"It's the same kind of situation we had 4 years ago," said Jon Retzlaf, legislative affairs director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "At that time, we didn't even know who the president was. But Congress was able to push and get the budget done in December."

What will happen this year, of course, is far from certain. The House and Senate are relatively far apart in their respective budget appropriations for NIH, NSF, the Centers for Disease...

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