January 29, 1997
The House and Senate are completing their organizational efforts as January draws to a close. We expect things to pick up in February with the state of the union address on February 4th and the budget being released on February 6th.
Early action will focus on the Balanced Budget amendment and term limits with the House expected to act on the Balanced Budget amendment the first or second week in February. The Senate is on a similar time table.
On the science and technology front, there are many information-communications issues. The data base copyright issue will be discussed early in the Science Committee. Encryption issues are being discussed at a staff level. Internet II is also being talked about. Look also for early hearings on cell phone security.
New committee chairmen take over on several committees with jurisdiction over NSF. These include the House Science Committee - Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI); Senate Appropriations (Full Committee) - Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK); Senate Labor and Human Resources - Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT) and Senate Commerce - Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). VA/HUD Appropriations subcommittee chairmen Rep. Jerry Lewis R-CA) and Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-MO) remain from the 104th Congress.
Committee rosters are beginning to take shape, although the House Science Committee, the Senate Labor and Human Resources and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have yet to announce subcommittee rosters. Appropriations committees in the House and Senate have finalized their subcommittee rosters.
For NSF, the hearing schedule is shaping up with authorization hearings on NSF's budget scheduled for early March and appropriations hearings following in late March and early April. Other hearings include testimony by Augustine Panel members on the future of the U.S. Antarctic Program and the South Pole Station.
The major action at this time of year is the budget. The President's budget is scheduled for release on February 6th. Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) has introduced S. 124, that would double civilian R&D over ten years with NIH funding singled out as getting a doubling in a second resolution.
In the House, Rep. George Brown (D-CA) has proposed an investment budget that balances in 2002 and allows a 5% annual increase in funding for investments, defined as including R&D, education and training, and various infrastructure investments. The money is freed up by: no tax cut until the budget balances, various entitlement fixes, freezes, 1/2% CPI adjustment, etc., flat defense spending (inflation increases only), and income raised through spectrum auctions, and other income creators.
Sen. Gramm's budget represents a 7% annual increase, but with his endorsement of the balanced budget amendment, healthy increases for defense procurement, and a capital gains tax cut, it is unclear where the money would come from to double R&D programs.