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February 10, 2005

DeLay Gets His Appropriations Reorganization -- Much of it, anyway

Proving once again that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the most powerful man in Congress, Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) announced yesterday a "bold reorganization" (to quote his press release) of his panel, a plan that mirrors much of a proposal DeLay originally proposed late last year. The reorganization will dissolve three appropriations subcommittees, including VA-HUD-Independent Agencies subcommittee -- home to NASA and NSF -- and is designed to "streamline and expedite" an appropriations process that has failed to finish up on time every year in recent memory.

Lewis plans to eliminate VA-HUD and spread its jurisdiction across several committees. Maybe most importantly to computing researchers, the reorganization would result in NASA and NSF moving to what was the Commerce, State, Justice subcommittee, but will now be called the Science, State, Justice and Commerce subcommittee.

While this isn't quite as far-ranging as the DeLay proposal originally floated in December (which we analyzed a bit here), it still accomplishes one of DeLay's primary goals: namely, to get NASA out from under the shadow of the Veterans' Administration and Housing and Urban Development. And in that sense, I think it's a net positive for NSF and NASA. They get moved to a subcommittee in which they'll enjoy a bit more prominence, and no longer have to compete with two relative behemoths (VA and HUD) for funding.

This is also a gain, I think, over the original Lewis proposal, which we told you about a few weeks ago. That plan would've seen NSF and NASA join DOE Science in the Energy and Water subcommittee, which raised concerns about the effect of NSF sharing a subcommittee likely to be staffed by members of Congress with DOE Labs in their districts. Would NSF, which has not been terribly affected by earmarks historically, then be in direct competition for funding with DOE in a subcommittee amenable to earmarking projects at DOE labs?

In any case, it looks as if the new organization plan avoids that potential pitfall by separating NSF and DOE. Of course, NSF will still have to contend with NASA -- focus of much special attention by the House Majority Leader -- and now adds NOAA, home to quite a few earmarks of its own. But, well, no plan is perfect....

The Senate appears to be close to adopting the House plan, according to Congressional Quarterly (sub. req'd). Failing to do so would mean absolute chaos come appropriations time -- as opposed to the moderate chaos already experienced during conference season. Adopting the change in the Senate would mean that long-time NSF champion Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) would lose his VA-HUD chairmanship and instead likely take over the new Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary and Housing subcommittee. That move would bump Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) to the Science, State, Justice and Commerce subcommittee.

On the House side, the new Science, State, Justice, and Commerce subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Former VA-HUD Chair Rep. James Walsh would take over the new Military Quality of Life and Veterans' Affairs subcommittee.

For the full shakeout, see Lewis' press release. We'll continue to monitor the reorganization and post the details as we get them.

Update: Roll Call reports (sub. req'd) that the Senate Republicans have rejected adoption of the House plan and want Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) to "negotiate further changes with his House counterpart."

Cochran said no decisions have been made, according to Roll Call.

I have learned not to bet against DeLay, however....

Posted by PeterHarsha at February 10, 2005 04:13 PM | TrackBack
Posted to Funding
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