Screws Tighten on NSF, NASA Funding; Commerce Bill Zeroes (?) ATP

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Publication date: 
1 December 1995
Number: 
168

In two weeks the short-term money runs out which has kept the doors
open at the National Science Foundation, NASA, and Department of
Commerce.  The outlook on keeping those doors open beyond that date
became dimmer during the last few days following action on two
appropriations bills.

Look for the screws to tighten on the FY 1996 NASA and NSF budgets
as House and Senate conferees shift money around to increase
spending on veterans medical care (see FYI #167.)  Last night, the
President signed the defense appropriations bill that was $7
billion over the administration's request.  Prior to Clinton's
signature, there was hope that had this bill been vetoed,
ultimately releasing some of this money, it could have funded the
additional VA medical care from "outside" H.R. 2099.  This bill
provides money for the VA, NASA, NSF, HUD, EPA, and many smaller
agencies. 

With this outside source of money no longer available,
appropriators are going to have to look inside the bill.  Available
candidates for reductions in this bill are slim: VA funding will go
up, and the administration has already loudly objected to cuts in
the HUD and EPA budgets.  That leaves NASA, with its $13.82 billion
budget, and NSF's $3.18 billion budget as the remaining large pots
of money.  The House wants an additional $213 million for VA  care.
Even if the House and Senate sign-off on this bill next week, the
President has already announced he will veto it because of cuts to
housing, EPA, and the national service program budgets.

The situation with the Commerce Department's FY 1996 budget is even
more clouded.  Wednesday, House and Senate conferees agreed on a
final appropriations bill for the Commerce Department.  Although
the conference report will not be ready until next Monday, two
administration sources report that the Advanced Technology Program
was zeroed out by the conferees.  This figure is not confirmed.
The Administration requested $490.9 million for ATP.  H.R. 2076 cut
overall department funding approximately 25%.  Having the extra $7
billion in DOD funding no longer available will make ultimate
resolution of this bill even more difficult.  Secretary Ronald
Brown said the President "will surely veto" this bill.

With such major differences between Congress and the Administration
in these two bills, the chances for a quick settlement are not
high.  Making this even more complicated is the decision by the
Republican congressional leadership to link the six unsigned
appropriations bills to balanced budget legislation.  Key players
from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have been meeting this week
- unsuccessfully - to reach some kind of compromise.  "You can't
divorce the appropriations bills from the reconciliation [overall
budget] package," declared House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia).
Breaking this logjam over NSF, NASA and Commerce funding will prove
exceedingly difficult, since it will ultimately involve issues
ranging from VA medical care to ATP funding to the size of the
federal deficit in 2002.  "It would be a miracle of major
proportions to finish by mid-December" warns Senator Jim Exon
(D-Nebraska).      

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