From the Floor: Selections from House Debate on Science Bill

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Publication date: 
27 October 1995
Number: 
151

As explained in FYI #150, the House passed and sent to the Senate
H.R. 2405, the Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization Act of 1995.
The following remarks by House Science Committee Ranking Minority
Member George Brown (D-CA), House Science Chairman Robert Walker
(D-PA), and two other representatives, provide a sense of the range
of opinions expressed by the bill's proponents and opponents:

GEORGE BROWN:

"...the policies in this bill will have an impact in every district
in this Nation.  H.R. 2405 reflects the Republican budget
resolution, which reverses the policies of the last 50 years that
have made the United States the undisputed world leader in science
and technology.  H.R. 2405 is another step in the most massive
disinvestment of Federal support for research and technology since
the end of World War II." 

"The individual members of the committee have little if any input
into the fundamental policy decisions, most of which were made
prior to any committee consideration.  The chairman arbitrarily
limited the committee scope of action and merely asked them to
ratify decisions already made.  Whether the chairman's increased
leverage over the appropriation process will be worth the loss of
a collegial and democratic process at the Committee on Science
level remains to be judged by history." 

"The distinction between basic and applied research is, of course,
convenient for budget cutting purposes but it is meaningless as a
public policy and reveals a profound lack of understanding on the
part of the Republicans of what basic research really is and how
basic and applied research is related." 

"The decisions that have been presented to us by this bill have
nothing to do with whether science is good or science is bad, but
whether it passes the ideological litmus test of the Republican
leadership." 

ROBERT WALKER:

"To suggest that somehow this bill is diminishing the work of
science I think does not reflect reality.  In fact, it gets almost
humorous when you look at the fact that we are dealing with the
broad base of science for the first time.  For the first time in
the history of the House, we are dealing with the broad base of
science as a comprehensive kind of program." 

"The chairman of the Committee on Science cannot act without a
majority of the members of the committee being with him, unlike the
old days, when the gentleman's [Brown] party ran the Committee on
Science and ran the Congress, we operated with a proxy system where
the chairman would sit there and vote other people's votes along
the way, and would determine the course of policy by the use of an
abhorrent system called proxy voting." 

"By eliminating corporate subsidies and low-priority programs, and
streamlining the bureaucracy, we have been able to increase funding
for life sciences research, basic energy sciences, and high energy
and nuclear physics....  In the area of technology, we have
reasserted our strong commitment to the priority of the core
scientific work of the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, yet another example of where we have been able to
refocus an agency to its primary mission." 

"...it is high time that we stop the Fortune 500 companies from
coming in here and getting the Government to do the things that
they could spend their own money on....  We support basic research;
that is what needs to be done." 

JOHN TANNER (D-TN):

"This bill provides no authorization and no funding for the
Advanced Technology Program and the Manufacturing Extension
Partnership at NIST.  The elimination of these two programs sends
the strongest signal possible to our business community that we
simply do not care about the harsh realities they face today.  It
is a matter of fact that corporate research focus today is
short-term and risk-averse and our small and medium-sized
manufacturers in this country face international competition on
every street corner in America." 

STEVEN SCHIFF (R-NM):

"It is important to state here that the science community needs to
recognize that the majority in both the House and the Senate, are
supportive of basic research.  Members understand that basic
research is essential, that it is an appropriate Federal activity,
and that it is an economic driver.  The Science Committee is
acutely aware of the importance of basic research, and so worked to
preserve funding even as other Federal programs have been cut to
meet aggregate budget requirements."