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NSF Congressional Highlight

Congress Returns After Recess

July 9, 1999

Congress returns to work on Monday, July 12th after a week-long Fourth of July recess. The House will consider legislation under the suspension calendar on Monday and then return to work on FY 2000 Interior and Military Construction appropriations bills on Tuesday and for the balance of the week. The Senate will begin the week by considering Patient's Bill of Rights legislation.

The prospects for the VA/HUD and Independent Agencies appropriation remain unclear. Currently, the House and the Senate VA/HUD subcommittees have allocations that are well below last year's level. Both subcommittees have been reluctant to mark up with such a dismal allocation because they fear they can't get these bills through the House or Senate floor.

Almost everyone familiar with the budget process acknowledges that the VA/HUD and Labor-HHS appropriations bills cannot pass with their current allocation levels. However, obtaining more funding for the VA/HUD and Labor HHS bills will be difficult. Increasing the subcommittee allocations will likely require reopening the FY 2000 budget resolutions passed earlier this spring which contain the strict spending caps set out in the bipartisan budget agreement two years ago. Congressional leaders have been reluctant to take this step, especially without some agreement with the administration over Social Security, Medicare and tax cuts.

On the general subject of R&D funding, there have been positive signs. First was the High Technology Summit , sponsored by the Joint Economic Committee. This series of hearings featured prominent economic leaders such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

On the legislative front, House Science Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 2086, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, a bipartisan bill that would authorize significant increases in IT research by NSF and other agencies. It is expected that a Senate version of an IT authorization bill will be introduced in the near future.

Another important issue that has concerned many in the science community is the controversial proposal to allow the use of the Freedom of Information Act to access scientific data collected through federal grants.

It is expected that the Office of Management and Budget will issue revised regulations on the use of FOIA for accessing scientific data. This action follows the earlier draft revisions to OMB Circular A-110, first published on February 4.

At the same time, Rep. James T. Walsh (R-NY), Chairman of the House VA/HUD subcommittee and VA/HUD member Rep. David E. Price (D-NC) intend to offer an amendment to the House Treasury and General Government Appropriations Bill for FY 2000. This amendment would delay enforcement of last year's provision directing OMB to issue regulations allowing the use of FOIA to access scientific data for one year. The Walsh/Price amendment would also require a study of the issue.

There also will be a hearing on the implications of use of FOIA to access scientific data in the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Steve Horn (R-CA). This hearing is tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 15.

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