House Passes Major Science Authorization Bill

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Publication date: 
26 October 1995
Number: 
150

The House has passed and sent on to the Senate H.R. 2405, the
Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization Act of 1995.  With a few
exceptions, the bill which is now before the Senate is as described
in FYIs #137 - 140, 143, and 144. 

The House of Representatives considered this bill on October 11 and
12.  Numerous amendments were debated, some of which were adopted.
Among the most important was an amendment offered by House Science
Committee Chairman Robert Walker (R-PA.)  When H.R. 2405 was
originally drafted by the Science Committee, the Department of
Energy was only authorized for Fiscal Year 1996 (which started on
October 1.)  Under Walker's floor amendment, FY 1997 authorization
levels were proposed for four major DOE activities.  After much
debate, this amendment was passed by a voice vote.  Authorization
bills provide permission to spend up to a specified level.
Appropriations bills provide the actual money for a program.   
 
Included in Walker's floor amendment is an FY 1997 authorization
level for General Science and Research Activities of $950.00
million.  The FY 1996 authorization level is $1,006.51 million.
Under Walker's amendment the authorization level declines by $56.50
million, or -5.6%.  This activity provides money for High Energy
Physics and Nuclear Physics Research.

Walker's amendment also authorizes $2,600.00 million for Energy
Supply Research and Development Activities in FY 1997, which
includes fusion and basic energy sciences research.  The FY 1996
authorization for this category is $2,148.20 million.  Under this
amendment, the authorization level increases by $451.78 million, or
+21%.  The manner in which this additional money is to be used is
not specified.

Debate on this bill was contentious at times, with Democrats
criticizing the manner in which H.R. 2405 was brought to the House
floor.  Republicans and Democrats traded charges about the merits
of the bill, whether it enhanced or diminished federal support of
science and technology, the relationship between authorization and
appropriations legislation, and the importance of the bill in
setting science policy and funding levels.  Chairman Walker and
House Science Committee Ranking Minority Member George Brown (D-CA)
framed the debate on many of these issues. 

During House consideration of the National Science Foundation title
(or section) of the bill, only one amendment was offered, by Brown.
It was accepted by voice vote, and permits a higher authorization
level for the foundation under certain circumstances.  While there
were a number of amendments concerning the NASA title of the bill,
none were directly related to space science. 

In addition to the Walker amendment to the Department of Energy
title described above, there were a series of amendments to reduce
staffing levels at national laboratories.  The first amendment by
Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN) would have cut the number of employees by
33% within five years.  This amendment was rejected by a vote of
135-yes to 286-no.  Rep. Bill Richardson (D-NM) tried to soften
this amendment with one of his own that would have reduced
employment levels by 15% over five years.  This was also rejected
by a vote of 147-yes to 274-no.  Rep. Scott Klug (R-WI) offered an
amendment, defeated by voice vote, requiring DOE to sell all of its
laboratories except for Los Alamos and Sandia, and perhaps Lawrence
Livermore.  At the conclusion of the debate on the DOE title,
Walker stated, for the record, that the Science Committee supports
the university-based accelerator program. 

During House deliberation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration title of the bill, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) was
successful in gaining support for an amendment stating that
"nothing in this Act shall preclude NOAA from carrying out studies
of long term climate and global change."  Another Lofgren amendment
to allow EPA to engage in research on climate change assessment
failed by a vote of 199-yes to 215-no.  Although there was
discussion about the other titles of the bill, no amendments were
adopted directly affecting physics related portions of the
legislation.

Brown offered the last amendment to the bill, which would have
substituted his version of H.R. 2405 for that written by the House
Science Committee.  Brown offered brief remarks about this
amendment, and a roll call voted was taken.  Brown's substitute
failed by a vote of 177-yes to 229-no on almost a strict party line
basis.  The House then went on to pass H.R. 2405 by a vote of
248-yes, 161-no, which was largely a party-line vote.

This bill now must be considered by several Senate subcommittees,
with most observers predicting that the Senate will not act on the
legislation.  This does not entirely preclude any further action on
this bill, as the possibility exists that it could be attached to
other must-pass legislation.  The Clinton Administration has sent
strong signals that the President will veto this bill if presented
to him in the current form.

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