The White House has announced that President Clinton intends to submit to the Senate two nominations for science- and technology-related positions, one within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and one within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST.) With its rush to wrap up the appropriations bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, it is not known when the Senate might address these nominations.
PENA CONFIRMED AS ENERGY SECRETARY: On March 12, Federico F. Pena was confirmed as Secretary of Energy. The Senate vote was 99-1, with only Senator Rod Grams (R-MN) voting against Pena. Grams' opposition was fueled by his disagreement with the Administration over policies for building a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Grams argued that Pena "has not provided the needed answers or displayed the leadership necessary to help resolve this pressing national issue.... I cannot, in good conscience, today vote to confirm Mr.
Several weeks into fiscal year 1999, Congress found itself with eight of the thirteen FY 1999 appropriations bills still incomplete. It bundled these remaining bills into a single, "omnibus" measure that the White House accepted after more than a week of intense, last-minute negotiating. This omnibus bill, H.R. 4328, contains FY 1999 appropriations for the Department of Commerce and many other federal departments and agencies, as well as some emergency funds.
One of the last bills passed by the House before Members departed for the August recess was H.R. 4276, the FY 1999 Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill, passed on August 6. The NIST section of the bill remains the same as that passed by the House Appropriations Committee on July 15 (see FYI #112.)
On July 20, the House Appropriations Committee passed H.R. 4276, its version of the FY 1999 Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill, which funds NIST. (The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version on June 25; it was then approved by the full Senate on July 23.)
New NIST Director Ray Kammer took some heat as he testified in front of House Commerce Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) on March 11. Rogers, known to be harsh at times with NIST witnesses, did not spare Kammer.
Congress has now left for its August recess. It is scheduled to return on September 8, with less than one month to go before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. In a rush of activity before leaving town, the House passed several FY 2000 appropriations bills, including those that fund NIST and the Department of Energy's civilian R&D programs.
In the Senate Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill (S. 1217), passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 10, NIST made out quite well in general. The committee report recommends more FY 2000 funding for NIST than the Administration asked for. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and construction funding would receive more than requested, while NIST's in-house labs would be funded at approximately the requested level.