At 4:17 pm yesterday the House clerk announced the vote:
representatives had voted 397 to 25 to pass an authorization
bill that would put the National Science Foundation on track
for a doubling of its budget within five years.
Yesterday's vote came after three hours of House floor debate
on H.R. 4664, the Investing in America's Future Act. This
bill has been moving on a fast track since its introduction
about a month ago by Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) and 16
cosponsors on the House Science Committee. The legislation
authorizes 15% increases in the foundation's budget in FY
2003, FY 2004, and FY 2005. This rate, if continued for two
additional years, would double the foundation's current $4.8
billion budget in five years.
The timing for this bill is propitious. Appropriators in both
the House and Senate are working on their versions of the FY
2003 VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill.
This massive show of support in the House roll call vote for a
15% increase for NSF funding in FY 2003 will be very helpful
to NSF supporters as the bills are written. The Bush
Administration requested what amounts to a 3% increase for NSF
next year after accounting for program transfers. During
recent hearings House and Senate appropriators spoke of their
disappointment about the request, and said they would work to
increase the foundation's budget. Senators Barbara Mikulski
(D-MD) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) are already on record in
favor of a doubling of the NSF budget. Last year, the NSF
appropriations bill contained an 8.4% increase.
Doubling science budgets has long been advocated, but has been
only partially successful. The NIH will see a doubling of
their budget with the upcoming FY 2003 appropriation. Bills
that would authorize doubling of most S&T spending have been
passed by the Senate but were never considered by the House.
Yesterday's passage of H.R. 4664 to double the NSF budget was
a landmark, both for its passage and for its characterization
as a "non-controversial" bill.
All who spoke about the bill yesterday supported it. Members
lauded the foundation and described the importance of basic
research for the nation's security and economy. House Science
Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said that "it's
time to give NSF the money it needs," saying "Health research
is not the only kind of research on which this nation
depends." Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) held up an exhibit
charting growth in various S&T agency budgets, and exclaimed
"I maintain that is out of balance." Rep. Eddie Bernice
Johnson (D-TX) , who first introduced an NSF budget doubling
bill 14 months ago, spoke of the widespread support there was
for increasing the NSF budget, citing the contributions of D.
Allan Bromley in her remarks.
The only controversy during the consideration of the bill was
over an amendment that would have authorized a $35 million
Biosafety Research Program to the bill. This was rejected by
a vote of 165 yes to 259 no. Opponents charged that the
authorization level was arbitrary and would lead to other
science programs being singled out for special treatment.
This bill now moves to the Senate. Thanks are due to the
Republican and Democratic members of the House Science
Committee for their efforts in support of the National Science
Foundation and the conduct of basic research in the United