Positive Congressional Responses to Clinton's FY2001 R&D Proposal President Clinton, speaking to an audience at the California Institute of Technology on January 21, presented a proposal for significantly increasing science and technology funding in the FY 2001 budget (see FYI #8). His speech drew immediate and encouraging reactions from both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Science Committee.
"I've heard some very positive comments by the Administration recently about science emerging as a budget priority," said Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in a press release dated the day of Clinton's speech. He added, "We won't know if it does reflect a higher priority for science within an overall responsible budget until we can examine the President's entire budget proposal. A strong science program and a responsible overall budget would be very good news for the science community and remove some of the past stumbling blocks. I look forward to reviewing the overall budget and supporting our nation's scientific enterprise."
Also in a January 21 press release, Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) said that "If we want to live longer, healthier lives and if we want to create new industries driven by emerging technologies, it is important to make wise investments in the future. The initiatives detailed today are responsible strides towards those goals."
Clinton's proposal would add $2.8 billion to the 21st Century Research Fund for FY 2001, increasing NSF funding by $675 million and biomedical funding at NIH by $1 billion. It would also provide increases for information technology, nanotechnology, space exploration, energy R&D, and "all scientific and engineering disciplines."
In his press release, Sensenbrenner raised some criticisms of the Administration's past budget submissions, stating that "budgetary game-playing hurt science programs in the Administration's last two budget proposals. Two years ago, Congress provided a 5.3 percent increase for all research and development (R&D) programs after the Clinton Administration made the bulk of its funding increase for a proposed Research Fund for America contingent on tobacco tax revenues that never materialized. Last year, the Administration again tied science programs' funding to tax hikes and other controversial measures." However, in a letter to Clinton on the same day, Sensenbrenner concluded, "I am confident that together we can make fundamental research and development a real priority in the FY 2001 budget." The full text of Sensenbrenner's January 21 letter follows:
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As we begin this new budget season, I would like to commend your Administration for its new emphasis on basic over applied research in setting federal science priorities. It is my hope that this focus is maintained in your upcoming 2001 budget. As you are aware, Congress has supported science and technology development to help maintain our economic health, enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace, and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
Last year, cooperation between Congress and the Administration yielded many significant victories for our scientific and technological programs, including:
* The longest extension of the R&D tax credit in history;
* Y2K legislation to protect business from frivolous lawsuits, and helping ensure the Y2K rollover was largely glitch-free; and
* sustainable increases for basic research that will help assure our nation's continued economic strength in the new millennium.
Stable and sustainable budget increases for high-risk basic research are critical components for future economic expansion. Last year, though, funding increases in the FY 2000 budget request for research and development relied on numerous gimmicks, making these increases more difficult to achieve. With hard work, Congress overcame these shortcomings to provide real increases for our nation's federal science budget.
This year, I fear science priorities will not be fully realized if wrapped in a larger across-the-board government spending spree that fails to strengthen Social Security, eliminate the debt by 2015, or provide tax fairness for the American people. I am confident that together we can make fundamental research and development a real priority in the FY 2001 budget.
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Audrey T. Leath