The Key Players: Select Science-Related Congressional Committees (I)

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Publication date: 
18 May 1995
Number: 
70

Over the next five months, committees in the House and Senate will
draft legislation of major importance to the physics and astronomy
community.  This FYI and FYI #71 provide a brief background on the
two kinds of bills to watch, and list the key players in this
process.

AUTHORIZATION BILLS

Authorization bills give permission to spend money, but do not
provide the money itself.

In theory, an authorization bill defines what a department, agency,
or program can do, and sets spending limits.  For example, NSF
programs were authorized for five years under the now expired NSF
Authorization Act of 1988.

When a new (non-appropriations) bill is introduced, it is sent to
one or more of the authorizing committees.  The next step is to
schedule a hearing, although most bills never get to this stage.
However, if the bill is sponsored by a chairman, is on an important
topic, or has many cosponsors, there is a greater probability that
a hearing(s) will be held.  If there is general consensus about the
need for legislation, a bill will be drafted by the subcommittee or
committee and a full committee vote held.  The bill will then be
reported to the full House or Senate for its consideration, where
it may be modified.  This process is repeated in the other chamber.
If passed in both, the House and Senate will confer on bill
language, and a final vote will be held in each chamber.  The
legislation is then sent to the president for approval or veto.

In practice, authorizing committees have lost much of their power
to the appropriations committees.  For example, authorizing
legislation has expired for most science and technology agencies
and programs.  Authorizing committees may regain some of their
influence this year under a new plan being advanced by
congressional leadership.

Authorizing committees also hold oversight hearings, in which
federal and non-federal witnesses testify to the strengths and
weaknesses of a program or agency. 

Committees which draft physics and astronomy-related authorization
bills include:

SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SPACE
SH-428 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510,
(202) 224-8172
Chairman, Conrad Burns (R-Montana)
Ranking Democratic Member, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia)
Jurisdiction:  Science, engineering and technology research and
development

HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE
2320 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515,
(202) 225-6371
Chairman, Robert S. Walker (R-Pennsylvania)
Ranking Democratic Member, George E. Brown Jr. (D-California)
Jurisdiction:  NSF, NASA, NIST, some DOE, research and development
                                                            
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
SD-364 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510,
(202) 224-8115
Chairman, Pete V. Domenici (R-New Mexico)
Ranking Democratic Member, Wendell H. Ford (D-Kentucky)
Jurisdiction:  Nuclear research and development, new technologies
R&D

SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
SR-228 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC  20510-6050
(202) 224-3871
Chairman, Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina)
Ranking Democratic Member, Sam Nunn (D-Georgia)
Jurisdiction:  Department of Defense, defense-related R&D

HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE
2120 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC  20515-6035
(202) 225-4151
Chairman, Floyd D. Spence (R-South Carolina)
Ranking Democratic Member, Ronald V. Dellums (D-California)
Jurisdiction:  Department of Defense, defense-related R&D

FYIs #62 and 63 provide guidance on communicating with Members of
Congress.