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Republican control of Congress could lead to science policy changes. (From the Hill).

Because science and technology research generally enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, the outcome of the November elections and the return to a Republican-controlled Senate will not likely result in major shifts in funding priorities. However, significant changes could materialize in policy issues that involve science matters but are fueled by politics.

One example is the proposed comprehensive ban on both research and reproductive cloning championed by Sen. Sam Brown-back (R-Kan.). Brownback was unsuccessful during Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's tenure in shepherding his bill to the floor for debate. But on the day after the election, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called the bill a priority, and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the new majority leader, supports it. However, strong support remains for a measure supported by the scientific community that would permit cloning for research purposes to proceed.

Republicans are also likely to resurrect a comprehensive energy bill that was approved by both houses but failed in conference committee. Although some science provisions may be kept intact, many of the most contentious energy issues, such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, are now up for grabs. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) will replace Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) as chair of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Bingaman was a strong force behind the 2002 bill, but Domenici's priorities are likely to differ substantially.

On the regulatory front, environmentalists will anxiously await the policy agenda of Sen. James In-hofe (R-Okla.), the incoming chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, who has a strong pro-industry voting record.

In the medical research arena, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) will assume the chairmanship, and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the ranking member slot of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In addition, Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Kennedy will continue as chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Public Health Subcommittee. Frist is stepping down as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which should give him more time to devote to health policy issues.

A key committee for civilian R&D is the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will become chairman and Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) ranking member. Both have recently focused primarily on telecommunications and broadband policy, and likely will continue to pursue that agenda.

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) will become chairman of the committee's Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee, with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) as ranking member. Although Allen's agenda is still relatively unknown, he worked with Wyden on both the NSF doubling bill and the cyber-security R&D bill.

In a potentially significant development for the scientific community, the House Republican leadership moved recently to exert more control over appropriations. From now on, the chairs of appropriations subcommittees will be appointed by the speaker and the majority leader rather than succeeding to their posts on the basis of seniority. Presumably, chairmen who are beholden to the speaker and majority leader for their posts will be more willing to take direction from the leadership.
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Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Date:Dec 22, 2002
Words:509
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