Building Bridges


Only a few months into the five-year balanced budget deal, Washington's politicians are already proposing new spending. In late October, Sens. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced the National Research Investment Act of 1998, which would double the research and development budgets of 12 federal bureaucracies, including the Departments of Education, Agriculture, and Energy, along with the Environmental Protection Agency.

"President Clinton has talked about building a bridge to the 21st century and, our philosophical differences aside, I want to help him build that bridge," intoned Gramm upon submitting the bill. Gramm would construct that metaphorical bridge with real dollars, doubling the $34 billion that the federal government will spend on basic R&D in 1999 to $68 billion in 2008.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, where it is not expected to receive immediate attention. To date, there is no companion bill in the House, although the science theme promises to be popular with politicians eager to deliver federal largess to their constituents. Testifying before the House Budget Committee in October on what to do with a budget surplus, Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "We have to be prepared to invest in science."