While the federal government nearly shut down last week amid legislators’ inability to agree on a 2011 budget, the main question locally was how the bill that resulted from those talks would impact funding at Argonne National Laboratory.
In February, the House of Representatives voted to approve a spending bill that would have sources for the Darien-area energy lab.
Argonne officials estimated the proposed cuts would have forced it to layoff about one-third of its 3,000 employees. Fermilab, in Batavia, would have reportedly had to trim one-quarter of its staff.
But when both the House and Senate voted on a final compromise bill Thursday, Argonne’s funding emerged largely intact, averting a scenario Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, said would .
The final budget funds the Office of Science at nearly $4.9 billion, an increase of $866 million over what House Republicans proposed in February’s bill.
“This is good news for Fermilab, Argonne and the communities surrounding the labs in Batavia and DuPage County,” Durbin said Wednesday as Congress neared its vote on the compromise. “The current budget agreement keeps America’s commitment to investing in innovative research while cutting spending by over $78 billion.”
Durbin visited Argonne in late February to meet with scientists about how funding cuts would impact their research in areas such as pharmaceuticals and transportation. Equipment in one of the labs the cuts threatened, for example, was used to develop the battery for the new Chevy Volt, a car that can run gas-free on about $1.50 worth of electricity per day.
Argonne Director Eric Isaacs said Wednesday the budget deal will enable Argonne’s scientists to continue research that ultimately boosts the economy by keeping the U.S. technologically competitive.
“I am deeply encouraged by Congress’ bipartisan decision to preserve our nation's investment in the Department of Energy's fundamental scientific research,” Isaacs said in a statement.