About 1,000 people traveled to Ohio Dominican College in Columbus
last Saturday for the House Budget Committee's first field hearing.
Lasting for about 2 1/2 hours, the hearing focused on "How Do We
Cut the Federal Budget?". Press reports indicate that fourteen
people, selected from those completing request forms, spoke for
three minutes and then answered questions from nine committee
members. Another thirteen people spoke for one minute each.
Reports do not indicate if science and technology programs were
The more active role the House Budget Committee is playing this
year adds a layer of complexity to what is already a confusing
budgeting process. In recent history, the committee has had a low
profile. In the new 104th Congress, the Budget Committee will
chart the over-all direction of congressional spending in this and
House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-OH) has long been
active in his pursuit of lower federal spending. In 1993, while
Ranking Republican on the committee, he overcame considerable
resistance among House Republicans to develop a detailed
alternative budget proposal. Kasich did so again last year with an
alternative budget resolution that included detailed spending cuts.
Among them were a phased-in 50% reduction in magnetic fusion
research funding, a freeze in DOE's nuclear physics research
program funding through FY 1999, and a limitation on the NSF
budget. Last year's budget resolution lost by 165-243 on a
party-line vote. Kasich is now chairman of the committee, and has
the power to formulate a budget resolution that will pass the
House. What the Senate will do is unknown. Budget resolutions are
not signed by the president.
It is not yet known what level of detail Kasich will specify in the
forthcoming budget resolution. Historically, the resolution has
only set broad spending goals by budget categories; there is
concern that the committee may go further this year. Energy
appropriations subcommittee chair John Myers (R-IN) has said, "The
Budget Committee should not be micro-managing. We on
Appropriations feel we have better insights into what the
priorities should be." Senior House Republicans have been meeting
to resolve tensions between committee chairs.
On February 6, the Clinton Administration sends its Fiscal Year
1996 budget request to Congress, where it will encounter
significant opposition from the very first day. Within weeks, the
appropriations committees will start hearings on the request (Myers
has scheduled a DOE physics-related hearing for March 9.) While
all of this is going on, congressional Republicans will attempt to
frame a winning strategy for reducing federal spending in the
current fiscal year through program rescissions (see FYI #10), in
FY 1996 appropriations, and in over-all cuts through the end of the
decade. Warns House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston (R-LA),
"if anybody thinks the cuts aren't significant, they're fooling
themselves. We have to make some desperate decisions."