This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies
In a final flurry of activity before heading home to campaign, Congress passed a $200 billion omnibus spending package that the President signed yesterday to keep the government in business for another year. The Senate also confirmed a large number of pending nominations, including that of Charles G. "Chip" Groat to be Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Groat will be officially sworn in by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in the coming days.
Several other bills made progress in the closing days of the 105th Congress. The Senate passed S. 2217, the Federal Research Investment Act, by a unanimous vote. The bill, which calls for a doubling of federal support for civilian research in the next twelve years, attracted 35 co-sponsors by the time it passed. Although action is complete for the 105th Congress, the bill sponsors are likely to reintroduce it early in the 106th Congress, quickly pass it through the Senate, then focus their efforts on having it enacted into law. Separately, the House passed a resolution endorsing the Science Committee's study Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy, giving it momentum as a blueprint for House activities on this topic in the next Congress.
The monthly update for October will contain more on all these issues. Additional information is also available at the AGI web site http://www.agiweb.org under "Government Affairs."
The omnibus appropriations package, H.R. 4328, includes eight of the thirteen regular appropriations bills, including ones funding the Department of the Interior, NOAA, and the Departments of Agriculture and Education. The bill funding NSF, EPA, and NASA was also signed on October 21. In general, the news for science is positive. According to preliminary analysis by AAAS, total R&D is expected to increase substantially in FY 1999, well above the President's request. Civilian R&D is up over 6 percent over fiscal year 1998 with NSF research accounts receiving an 8.4 percent boost, and DOE science programs receiving an 8 percent increase. Specific numbers for geoscience programs have yet to emerge, but the U.S. Geological Survey as a whole will receive $798 million, up $38 million from last year but $9 million less than requested.
Details of the spending bill have been hard to come by, not just for yours truly but also for the agencies and even Congress itself. One of the more colorful comments came from Senate Appropriations Committee ranking minority member Robert C. Byrd (D-WV): "Do I know what's in the bill? Are you kidding? No. Only God knows what's in this monstrosity." Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle complained that they had to vote on the 2,285 page bill without an opportunity to read it. Just hours before the vote in the House, only one complete copy existed. To try your own hand at it, visit http://thomas.loc.gov".
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted October 22, 1998
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