Durbin: Argonne, Fermilab will avoid big cuts

By:  Marco Santana
The Daily Herald

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Wednesday that two area science research facilities that had been facing major layoffs would be able to rest easy if a federal budget agreement passes Congress later this week.

Durbin said the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive about $4.9 billion in funding next year. This will allow Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont and Batavia-based Fermilab to continue research and avoid staffing cuts that had been feared after a GOP-backed bill passed the House and was considered in the Senate in February.

Argonne Director Eric Isaacs said he was “deeply encouraged by Congress' bipartisan decision.”

The tentative agreement comes on the heels of a near-complete shutdown of the federal government. With fierce rhetoric coming from both sides of the political aisle, House and Senate leaders passed a temporary spending bill at the eleventh hour Friday and barely staved off the shutdown. The temporary fix gave Congress time to work out a more permanent deal. In February, Durbin visited Argonne to oppose the House bill, which officials said would have resulted in 1,450 layoffs between the two research facilities.

But late Wednesday afternoon, Durbin said those layoffs had been avoided.

“This is good news for Fermilab, Argonne and the communities surrounding the labs in Batavia and DuPage County,” Durbin said.

During his visit to Lemont, Durbin said preserving the research facilities' budgets was crucial and that losing it would have a “devastating” effect on U.S. efforts to keep pace with the rest of the world in technology.

The new bill restores about $866 million to the office.

“The current appropriations bill recognizes the critical role that the DOE Office of Science and its laboratories play in the nation's future,” said Fermilab Director Pier Oddone.