House Debate on Unsuccessful Move to Fully Fund NSF Last week, during House consideration of the FY 2001 appropriation for the National Science Foundation, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) offered an amendment to fully fund the NSF at the administration's request. His amendment was ruled out of order because it would have caused the bill's total cost to be above its preset allocation. Selections from the debate follow:
REP. HOLT, offering his amendment:
"Mr. Chairman, there are a number of problems with this bill, but I think one of the greatest is the lack of adequate funding for the National Science Foundation. This is an area that I think we should work in a bipartisan way to correct.
"Let me be clear: the gentleman from New York [VA, HUD Appropriations Chairman James Walsh] and the ranking member and the members of the subcommittee have worked hard to meet the pressing needs with the limited funds that they have been given. They are not at fault here. But because of [the subcommittee's] inadequate appropriations allocation, the National Science Foundation does not receive the funds it needs to continue its vital work."
"The VA-HUD appropriations bill we are being asked to support comes up short in the needed investments for the National Science Foundation. It cuts NSF investments in science and engineering by over $500 million, or 13 percent below the level requested by the President. So as funded, the bill would weaken U.S. leadership in science and engineering and deny progress that would result in improvement of the quality of life of all Americans."
REP. JAMES WALSH (R-NY), chairman of the House VA, HUD appropriations subcommittee:
"Mr. Chairman, I would like to reassure the gentleman that offered this amendment that the subcommittee did not ignore the President's request. We honored the President's request, and I think the desires of the Congress to the best of our ability, given our allocation. The President requested a $675 million increase in NSF. He also requested a 20 percent increase in HUD and substantial increases elsewhere in the budget. There was no way, given the available resources that we had, to meet that request.
"However, what we did do was we increased funding for NASA, increased funding for HUD, increased funding for the Veterans Administration, and we increased funding for the National Science Foundation. In fact, we increased NSF by almost $170 million. That is a substantial increase. The budget is now over $4 billion. We believe strongly in investing in science and technology. I think that our conference has been clear and our record strong on supporting investments in science. However, we do not have unlimited resources. We are constrained by the allocation.
"I would add that if funds are made available at the end of this process as we go into the [final appropriations] conference that we will look, and I know the gentleman from West Virginia [VA, HUD Ranking Minority Member Alan Mollohan] feels the same way, we will look strongly at providing those resources for further investments in technology. At this time, we do not have those funds available to us, and for that reason, I would reluctantly oppose the gentleman's amendment."
REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), Ranking Minority Member of the House Appropriations Committee:
"Mr. Chairman, we are here today because the committee has underfunded the President's budget request for the National Science Foundation by $500 million. Last year, Chairman Greenspan of the Federal Reserve said this: `Something special has happened to the American economy in recent years. I have hypothesized on a number of occasions that the synergies that have developed, especially among the microprocessor, the laser, fiber optics and satellite technologies have dramatically raised the potential rates of return on all types of equipment.'
"What has happened to the American economy, in my view, has a lot to do with the work of this committee and the work of this subcommittee. If we take a look at the technologies that Chairman Greenspan was talking about, this [appropriations] committee has been largely responsible for funding a number of them through the years, and the results show."
"Mr. Chairman, if we want the economy to grow, if we want to expand our knowledge of the problems that face us on the health front, we have to fund NSF to do the basic science that is required. When they do that, they can, in turn, pass it through to the National Institutes of Health who take it a step further, and we can finally come up with discoveries on how to deal with some of the most dreaded diseases in this society."
REP. RODNEY FRELINGHUYSEN (R-NJ), Member of House VA, HUD Appropriations Subcommittee:
"I rise in opposition to the amendment. Mr. Chairman, there are many Federal agencies that compete for the VA-HUD budget allocation . . . . All of us here, Republican or Democrat, support the National Science Foundation because we know that much of their work, the greatest portion of their work, in fact, goes into university-based research. That support is bipartisan and nonpartisan, in fact.
"Further, this bill under discussion clearly reinforces the commitment of this Congress to scientific research as we are aware of the National Science Foundation marks its 50th anniversary this year. It is funded at a record $4.1 billion. This is an increase of $167 million, or 4.3 percent over last year. We wish it could be more."
Mr. ALAN MOLLOHAN (D-WVA), Ranking Minority Member of House VA, HUD Appropriations Subcommittee:
"Mr. Chairman, let me also compliment the chairman of my subcommittee [Rep. Walsh] for being able to find money for a 4 percent increase in the NSF budget. In this budget allocation that we were given in our committee, that is quite a feat. It is in fact a recognition of his attitude towards how important basic funding research is.
"But it is not enough. Our economy, our new economy, demands that we invest more in the National Science Foundation in basic research."
Richard M. Jones