Congress Leaves Town for Elections; Appropriations Bills Unfinished Congress has now left town and will not return until next week (the House on November 13, and the Senate on November 14). Members of Congress departed with five of the 13 appropriations bills still unfinished. The programs funded by those bills are operating under a two-week continuing resolution - the 15th continuing resolution that Congress has had to pass this year to avoid shutting down government programs and agencies.
It is impossible to predict how today's election results will affect negotiations with the White House when Congress returns next week for a lame-duck session. It might cause the reopening of many issues that negotiators had considered resolved, but most reports seem to consider that unlikely.
Of the remaining appropriations bills, two contain programs tracked by FYI. The Commerce-Justice-State (C-J-S) bill (H.R. 4690) funds NIST, which is a part of the Commerce Department. The Labor-HHS-Education bill (H.R. 4577) funds Department of Education programs, including the Eisenhower professional development state grants program for teachers. In past years, the Eisenhower program has included a set-aside specifically for teacher professional development in science and math.
NIST: Both the House and the Senate have approved the C-J-S conference report. It has not yet been sent to President Clinton, but he has stated his intention to veto it. Contentious issues include tobacco litigation and illegal immigration.
The conference report (H. Rpt. 106-1005) would provide less for NIST than the institute received in FY 2000. This is due to a planned decrease in the construction account, now that all the funding necessary to build the Advanced Measurement Laboratory has been appropriated. Under the conference report, the Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS), the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would each receive more than last year's funding, although less than the White House requested. The conference report recommendations for these programs are: NIST Total: $598.3 million; STRS: $312.6 million; ATP: $145.7 million; MEP: $105.1 million; and Construction: $34.9 million.
Because of the veto threat, the numbers in the conference report cannot be considered final. A future FYI will contain more details of the final FY 2001 appropriation for NIST.
EISENHOWER PROGRAM: The House and Senate have not agreed to a conference report, but congressional negotiators were instead working directly with the White House on this bill. Areas of disagreement included tax credits for school construction and employee health and safety regulations on repetitive motion injuries. While it appeared in late October as though the White House and appropriators had reached an agreement, it was repudiated by the Republican congressional leadership.
According to reports, the now-defunct agreement would have included a record $585 million for the Eisenhower grants program. This would represent a 74.6 percent increase over FY 2000 funding of $335 million. No funding level was specified for a math- science set-aside, but a substantial increase seemed a likely possibility. Also reportedly in the deal were $1.75 billion for a class-size reduction program to hire new teachers (from which states could spend up to 25 percent on professional development), $1 billion for school renovation programs, and $1 billion for after-school programs. Now that the agreement has fallen through, however, it is not clear where things stand on any of these issues.
Although the results of the presidential and congressional elections will add a new dimension to the budget negotiations, it appears that most issues are close to final resolution.
Audrey T. Leath