Major Science Policy and Funding Bills Move to the Front Burner

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Publication date: 
2 June 1995

The first five months of the 104th Congress are going to seem like
a walk in the park compared to what Congress will tackle when it
returns next week from its Memorial Day recess.  Passing thirteen
appropriations bills has never been easy; this year it will be even
more confrontational.  Add to this a host of authorization bills to
be passed.  It is going to be a long summer and fall, and that is
even before the president picks up his veto pen.

One need look no further than next week's schedule of the House
Committee on Science to get an indication of what lies in store for
returning Members.  On Wednesday, Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI)
subcommittee will mark-up the International Space Station
Authorization Act.  The next day, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-CA)
subcommittee will mark-up the DOE R&D Authorization Act, the NOAA
Authorization Act, and the EPA R&D Authorization Act.  An NSF
reauthorization bill is being drafted, and parallel efforts in the
Senate are underway.  Unknown is the degree of cooperation
committee Democrats will provide; Rep. George Brown (D-CA) caused
the earlier postponement of the space station bill because of his
concern about Republican spending plans.  The bipartisan spirit
that was a trademark of this committee seems to be waning.  While
science-related authorization legislation has not played a large
role in previous Congresses, Republican leaders want to use this
mechanism to set policy and spending caps before the main event
gets underway: the drafting of the appropriations bills.

The outlook on the appropriations front is even more unsettled.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been
traditionally insulated from politics because of their huge work
loads and the absolute necessity of passing their bills on time.
This is largely no longer true in the House.  First steps are now
being taken in these committees to draft legislation.  Tentative
allocations to each of the House thirteen appropriations
subcommittees are out (with final allocations to be determined
following agreement between the House and Senate on a FY 1996
Budget Resolution.)  The House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies
(NSF and NASA), Energy and Water Development (DOE), and Commerce,
Justice, State (NIST) appropriations subcommittees all face cuts in
their FY 1996 allocations.  New starts are in particular peril
since House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Livingston
(R-LA) does not want subcommittees to make small cuts in programs
to meet spending targets, instead favoring termination of programs
that are unlikely to survive in the future budget climate.  There
will be additional cuts if Congress and President Clinton are
unable to agree on reductions in this year's spending.

The outlook for NSF is better than for most of the R&D budgets if
the House VA, HUD subcommittee follows the recommendations in the
House Budget Resolution.  NASA spending would be further reduced,
although the space station would be funded in full.  The resolution
calls for the abolishment of the Departments of Energy and Commerce
and the Office of Technology Assessment, so what will happen with
these appropriations is anyone's guess.

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