Congress Moving Toward Adjournment
APPROPRIATIONS FOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY: The bill funding NIST also funds the State Department. There is a major controversy about how federal funds would be used by international family planning agencies. Both sides have dug-in for a battle over what a top House leader has called "a potential show stopper." Until a compromise is reached, NIST will continue, like all of the other departments and agencies funded under this bill, to receive money under short-term legislation. Once this and other issues are resolved, Republican leaders contemplate one or two omnibus bill(s) that would include the five appropriations bills that are not yet passed.
BALANCING THE BOOKS: There is still no agreement on how to balance the books for FY 2000. Both the Administration and Congress have made such resolute statements about not using Social Security funds that they have boxed themselves in. Republicans continue to talk about a small across-the-board cut; Democrats continue to resist. Look for creative accounting to deal with a shortfall of almost $7 billion in a final bill now scheduled for action early next week.
RESEARCH AND EXPERIMENTATION TAX CREDIT: In 1981, legislation was passed that allows a company a tax credit for some qualified research expenditures. This was not permanent; laws have been passed eight times since then to extend it. Congress and the Administration want to extend it again, but disagree whether it should be for five years (Congress) or 30 months (the Administration.) Finding a way to pay for this and a number of other tax breaks has held-up passage of an extension. The bill was given new life when Congress postponed its adjournment.
"DOUBLING BILL" INTRODUCED IN THE HOUSE: Late last month, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico) introduced H.R. 3161, the Federal Research Investment Act. This bill authorizes almost a doubling of federal civilian research funding by 2010 ("by fiscal year 2010, 2.6 percent of the Federal budget is spent on non-defense research and development.") Wilson was joined on this bill by ten of her colleagues from both parties, notably John Dingell (D-Michigan). Appearing at a press conference to discuss the bill was Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), sponsor of similar Senate-passed legislation, and Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey.) Do not look for House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) to co-sponsor this bill.
CLINTON ON NON-DEFENSE S&T RESEARCH: At a November 8 "online" town hall meeting, President Clinton stated, "Well, most of that is done at the National Institutes of Health, at the Energy Department. It's done in universities through federal grants. And I believe we ought to see a dramatic increase of that. Essentially, if you look at the last few years, Congress has been good about increasing funding for NIH, not so good about increasing funding for environmental research and other non-defense areas. So good on the health care, not so good on the rest. We need more on the rest." The President's remarks - "We need more on the rest" - come at an opportune time, as federal agencies and his Office of Management and Budget are now negotiating about the budget request for next year.
Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics