CONGRESSIONAL OUTLOOK 2004 | January 26, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 4 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 4 | pp. 34-39
Issue Date: January 26, 2004

CONGRESSIONAL OUTLOOK 2004

Divided Senate, presidential election will keep Congress from passing many bills this year
Department: Government & Policy
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Senators and representatives returned to Washington, D.C., last week with much unfinished business to attend to. Starting with completion of the 2004 budget, already four months late, Congress will move on to dealing with controversial legislation like the energy bill, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security, and the Clear Skies Initiative.

Hanging over all of Congress is this year's election. With the Republican-controlled Senate divided 51 to 49, and the Republicans leading the House with a slim majority of only 25, any legislation or investigations will be done mindful of November's votes. This situation will make it especially hard to pass any kind of meaningful budget reduction or controversial bill. Democrats in the Senate, particularly, will be able to block legislation that they believe is unwarranted.

Aside from the more publicized bills, several science and technology issues will come before Congress this year. The National Institutes of Health will face scrutiny as both the House and Senate investigate its policies and management for perceived ethics problems. Also, space exploration will be a major topic as Congress will address the President's new initiative and how to pay for it. And amendments are expected to some environmental laws to keep the U.S. in tune with several international treaties.

Overall, this second session of the 108th Congress promises to be extremely partisan and argumentative. Progress will be slow, and few important bills are expected to be passed. With that said, the following is C&EN's annual review of issues that will occupy the members of Congress in the months ahead.

 

ECONOMY & BUDGET. Although the budget situation may not look as bad this year as in 2003, it may be worse. Congress returned to Washington this year still not having passed much of last year's budget. Seven appropriations bills, lumped into a single omnibus spending package that includes $328 billion in discretionary spending, have yet to be approved.

A vote on that package was taken last week, but Democrats in the Senate managed to delay passage of the omnibus spending bill, trying to get some provisions changed. The controversial bill contains the research funding for many agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and NIH.

The impact of a challenge to the omnibus package could be great. If it does not pass, a continuing resolution that keeps funding at 2003 levels could be extended for all of fiscal 2004. Also, thousands of congressional earmarks included in the omnibus would be lost, many of them going to universities and other research projects. However, at press time, it looked like the omnibus bill would pass in the next week or so.

The deficit and its impact on the economy will be a major part of the debate for the fiscal 2005 budget, which President George W. Bush will propose on Feb. 2. Despite a promise that he will put the budget on a course to cut the burgeoning deficit in half over the next five years, both Democrats and Republicans are skeptical this will happen. In addition, the general election this fall will make any sort of agreement in the closely divided Congress a problem.

Both sides are expected to clash over spending priorities, and getting a budget resolution for the 2005 budget will be difficult. There certainly will be an effort to put a cap on future discretionary spending, a move that almost always means very small increases in funding for the science agencies. But passing a spending cap will not be easy.

Congress will also have to wrestle with overhauling corporate taxes early this year, in part to avert an international trade war. At issue is a provision in U.S. law that reduces the corporate tax rate on earnings from exports. The World Trade Organization has ruled that this tax break, worth as much as $500 million per year for basic chemical manufacturers, is an illegal subsidy (C&EN, Jan. 5, page 19). The European Union has been waiting for two years for Congress to eliminate this tax provision and is poised to start imposing billions of dollars in WTO-sanctioned tariffs on U.S. goods starting on March 1 if U.S. lawmakers do not act by that date.

Congress intends to ax the exporter tax break by rewriting part of the corporate tax code. But that effort involves a political wrangle over what sort of tax benefits to add to offset removal of the EU-disputed tax break for exporters. Fueling that fight is that, no matter what replaces the export tax break, some companies will come out ahead financially while others will end up paying more money to the U.S. Treasury than under the current system. Both Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman William M. (Bill) Thomas (R-Calif.) want to avert the pending EU sanctions and pass corporate tax legislation before the March 1 deadline.

 

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HOMELAND & NATIONAL SECURITY. Last December's holiday season brought festivities, family reunions, and a heightened terror alert. On Dec. 21, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge raised the alert status for the whole country from code yellow--significant risk--to code orange--high risk--then lowered it back to yellow on Jan. 9. He offered no explanation for the changes beyond saying his actions were warranted by intelligence.

Raising the alert status comes at a high cost--literally. The Center for Strategic & International Studies estimates the tab to government at about $1 billion per week.

The bouncing-ball changes of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) terror alert system since Sept. 11, 2001, have irked several members of Congress, who claim the system is too vague and too broadly applied. According to Moira Whelan, a press officer for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, the panel will "consider legislation restructuring DHS's threat advisory system" to adapt it more specifically to regions and economic sectors. "DHS needs to show the committee the methodology it uses to raise or lower the threat level," she says. Any bill coming out of committee likely will contain standards for changing the level.

Changing the threat-level system, however, is not a top priority for the select committee. That position falls to a DHS authorization bill, the first for the department since it was set up in January 2003. Such legislation, which Whelan says has bipartisan support, will jump-start "the annual authorization process."

An authorization bill will offer a vehicle for "opening the book on every DHS directorate," a staff member of the select committee explains. There's an overall feeling, another staff member says, that DHS can be doing more in some areas. Often cited is its handling of the unified watch list that was created to track potential terrorists. Other DHS missions likely to receive intense scrutiny are port and aviation security, transportation of chemicals, and bioterrorism.

In the bioterrorism arena, the authorization process could offer the potential to look beyond President Bush's Bioshield program for more "robust ways to develop and deploy new biodefense countermeasures," a staff member suggests. Several members of Congress are concerned that Bioshield fails to address unconventional pathogens.

It's dubious just how far a DHS authorization bill will travel this legislative session. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, with jurisdiction over DHS, doesn't plan to consider an authorization bill. Committee spokeswoman Andrea Hofelich says, "DHS hasn't presented us with any request for legislative changes that would necessitate any authorization bill this year."

Beyond the authorization bill, another top agenda item for the House select committee, Whelan says, is reporting out a first-responder bill, perhaps as early as February. This bill would consider restructuring DHS's grant process so that "essential capabilities are directed to each locality's needs," and setting aside money for interoperable communications--using available technology--among various governmental jurisdictions. It also would address the threat-level advisory system.

The House select committee also hopes to have the Senate's chemical security bill referred to it when the bill comes over from that chamber, Whelan says. Normally, the House Energy & Commerce Committee would have primary referral on the bill, so "whether the select committee will have primary referral for that bill is the issue," she explains. "A component not in the Senate bill we would like to see is secure transportation of chemicals by truck or rail," she adds.

Another House committee with jurisdiction over security matters is the Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats & International Relations. Among the issues on the subcommittee's agenda through April are chemical plant security, the status of the anthrax vaccine, and nonproliferation matters.

The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs is still "fleshing out its schedule for the rest of the year," Hofelich tells C&EN. Its purview is much broader than homeland security, and one item certain to come before it early--the first week in February--is postal reform, Hofelich says. Then, homeland security issues are sure to follow.

Last year, the committee held hearings on port security, first-responder grant formulas, agricultural terrorism, and terrorist financing. This year, the panel is likely to revisit these areas, especially terrorist financing, Hofelich says. The panel will also monitor DHS's budget, but she is uncertain whether that effort will take the form of hearings.

Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee, sponsored two bills last year that are awaiting floor action. One, S. 1245, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act, would decrease from 12 to two the number of steps first responders have to negotiate when applying for DHS funding. The other, S. 1612, the Homeland Security Technology Improvement Act, "will enable the transfer of technology from the federal level to first responders at the state and local levels," Hofelich explains.

Leslie J. Phillips, press secretary for the Democratic members of the Governmental Affairs Committee, says ranking minority member Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) "will continue aggressive oversight of DHS as he did last year" to ensure the department has the leadership and resources it needs. Lieberman is deeply concerned about funding for first responders and interoperability of their communications equipment, as well as DHS's failure to conduct threat and risk assessments of critical infrastructure.

There's a sense among members that the department's Science & Technology Directorate has gotten off to a shaky start. So, Phillips says, Lieberman "will be studying the directorate to determine if, in fact, it is carrying out what he envisioned in his legislation" that created the department.

Another of Lieberman's long list of concerns is the department's intelligence capabilities. His bill called for a separate intelligence directorate within DHS to coordinate terrorist information collected by the intelligence community. As Phillips points out, instead of Lieberman's blueprint, the intelligence function was not only downgraded within DHS, but it was also actually moved to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Yet another key area of interest to Lieberman is DHS's budget. The Bush Administration "hasn't sought enough funding for DHS in the past, so Lieberman will be working to increase department resources for the future," Phillips says. He will also scrutinize how well the department works with state and local officials, she adds.

 

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CHEMICAL PLANT SECURITY. Last October, a chemical plant security bill, backed by the White House, cleared the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. The bill (S. 994) would require some 15,000 plants that handle large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals to assess their vulnerability to a terrorist attack and to develop site security plans. Although DHS would oversee the process, the bill lacks any requirement that the department actually examine the quality of the plans. The plans are unavailable to the public.

Several Democrats and Republicans on the committee have called for better oversight and during committee debate have introduced amendments to address the issue. However, committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the bill's sponsor, and his allies on the committee successfully voted down oversight amendments. But Inhofe promised to work with other committee members to develop new language to be added on the Senate floor.

But Senate sources tell C&EN that no such meetings have taken place. Still, with or without compromise, these amendments are sure to be proposed if the bill reaches the floor, staff say, which will set off a floor fight that Inhofe might not win. Without an agreement on amendments, Democratic and Republican staff say it is doubtful that legislation will be introduced on the floor.

There is no companion bill in the House, and congressional sources say there is little interest among House leaders to move a plant security bill.

Inhofe's bill came in response to earlier legislation by Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.), which would have called for plants to consider inherently safer technologies as well as security measures.

That approach was strongly opposed by chemical companies, and although Corzine's bill cleared the same Senate committee, it never reached the Senate floor. Chemical trade associations favor Inhofe's bill, which would consider their voluntary security plans an alternative to the federal requirements.

 

SPACE. Following a year of intense congressional inquiry initiated by the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia, NASA will again be the center of attention in 2004. This time, the spotlight will be on the details of President Bush's new vision for the future of human space flight (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 13).

"This is an exciting proposal, and is exactly the jump-start NASA needs to move into the future," says Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology & Space. "For months, I've called for the U.S. to take a position of dominating the Earth/moon orbit and to take people back to the moon for exploration, commercial, strategic, and research purposes," he notes.

The Bush plan, which makes NASA's primary goal the return to the moon before moving on to other planets such as Mars, will require Congress to approve $1 billion in new appropriations for the agency over a five-year period. Congress will also be following the programmatic realignment of NASA that will be required to meet the President's proposed goals.

"I look forward to working with the Administration to understand more fully the costs of the new mission and its impact on the full array of NASA programs," says House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.). "I expect the Science Committee will lead the way in analyzing the President's proposal and working to forge a consensus on how to revive human exploration of outer space," he says.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), ranking minority leader on the House Science Committee, is in agreement with Boehlert in seeking more details about how the plan will be financed by NASA. "I am particularly concerned that NASA's other missions not be cannibalized in an attempt to cover the costs of these proposals."

In addition to investigating the new Bush initiative, the Science Committee will continue its work on related space policy legislation. Its top priority will be working on NASA's reauthorization bill, which will be influenced by the new plan. The NASA Flexibility Act of 2003 (H.R. 1085) was reported out of committee last year and is awaiting action by the full House. Also last year, the Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics approved legislation to commercialize human space flight (H.R. 3245), which the full committee is expected to move on in this session.

On the Senate side, the Science, Technology & Space Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Mars missions for Feb. 4. Legislation targeted at improving NASA safety and realigning the agency's mission is also expected to be introduced in the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, parent to the subcommittee.

 

ENERGY. From the first days of the Bush Administration, national energy legislation was near the top of the Administration's agenda. Now, three years later, it appears that moving a comprehensive energy bill through this Congress is still a long shot (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 58).

Whether the first energy bill in a decade can become law will turn on what happens in the Senate--most likely, over the next month.

In late November, the House passed a national energy bill (H.R. 6) by a 246 to 180 vote, largely along party lines. The legislation is the creation of Republican members of a House-Senate energy conference committee.

The bill is sharply tilted to support traditional energy sources--coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear--but it also includes lesser levels of aid for renewable energy sources. Altogether, it gives some $30 billion in tax credits and direct funding to energy industries, more than three times the levels sought by the President. The bill enjoys support from most industrial sectors and Republican leadership; it is opposed by environmental groups and many Democrats.

At the close of last year's congressional session, the Senate remained two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster by bill opponents so the bill could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Despite much cajoling by the Senate leadership over the holiday break, the two votes still appear to be missing.

And there is another wrinkle that will appear if the bill makes it to the floor: Because the bill exceeds the amount of funding originally allocated by the Senate, under Senate rules, any senator can request a vote on the spending increase. This means another 60-vote margin must be obtained to sustain the funding increase.

Several Republicans who voted to end the filibuster in November say they will call for the procedural vote because of the high price tag. How this will play out is uncertain and is now the focus of new lobbying on the part of Senate leadership.

A number of particularly thorny provisions are in the bill. The most contentious of these are provisions to support makers of gasoline oxygenates--ethanol and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE).

The bill would double levels of corn-based ethanol added to gasoline by 2012, a provision that has garnered support for the bill from farm-state members of Congress. The bill also would phase out MTBE as a gasoline additive and, in return, provide some liability protection to chemical companies that manufacture it. MTBE producers face a growing tide of lawsuits by states, cities, and water providers due to MTBE contamination of drinking water.

The liability provisions, however, are strongly opposed by many senators--Republicans and Democrats--from the states hit with MTBE contamination. Their opposition sustained the filibuster and blocked the bill in the Senate.

But these provisions cannot be modified easily because that would require returning the bill to the House for another vote. Also, it was House Republican leadership that wrote the provisions providing MTBE protection for chemical companies, and it doesn't intend to modify the provision, staff say.

The bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate in late February. However, if passage of the big bill appears doubtful, it is likely that members will try to attach key provisions from the bill to other pieces of legislation or to write specific energy-related, stand-alone bills of interest to them and their constituents.

Senate staff members say these amendments or bills may include such provisions as ethanol subsidies, federal liability aid for nuclear power plant owners, aid for natural gas production, electricity grid reliability, and tax breaks for certain energy industries.

 

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ENVIRONMENT. Air pollution legislation is likely to be the major environmental battle in Congress this year. The President's Clear Skies Initiative, designed to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and petroleum refineries, has been introduced in the House and Senate, but no action has been taken in either body. Congressional sources say movement of this controversial legislation this year is unlikely.

The bills (S. 485, H.R. 999) would require an approximately 70% reduction in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2018. They allow pollution trading, even for mercury, which is neurologically toxic.

The White House proposed the legislation as an alternative to new source review regulations, which it no longer enforces. New source review provisions required power plants to install modern pollution control equipment when making plant modifications that increase air emissions.

Last month, EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt laid out a plan to use regulations to reach the goals of the President's initiative without legislation. However, Leavitt also says he would welcome the authority for the initiative that would come with a law.

The Democrats also support air pollution legislation, but their bill sets out tighter deadlines and would cut carbon dioxide as well as the other three pollutants. This approach is opposed by the President and congressional Republicans.

Carbon dioxide emissions are central to the issue of global climate change, an issue that continues to be fought on Capitol Hill. The Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 (S. 139), sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lieberman, is likely to come up for a vote in the Senate again this year, despite the fact that it was defeated by a vote of 43 to 55 this past October.

The bill would require a reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to the 2000 level by 2010. It would cap overall greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity, transportation, industrial, and commercial sectors, and it would create a market in which individual companies could trade pollution credits--credits for lower than allowed emission levels. In addition, a similar bill may be introduced in the House.

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says the McCain-Lieberman bill is likely to garner more votes this year, 51 perhaps, but not 60. "I think roughly the same bill will be introduced in the House, but it probably won't go anywhere," she says.

On another environment issue, an aide to Inhofe and a Senate minority staffer tell C&EN that hearings on Superfund, the program used to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites, are likely this year, given that the Senate held no hearings on this issue in 2003. The hearings are likely to focus on long-term reform of Superfund, according to the Inhofe aide.

Democrats and many environmental groups are concerned that, as of late 2003, the Superfund account ran out of money. A tax on chemical and petroleum feedstocks and on corporate income fed Superfund's coffers until the levy expired in December 1995, and the account has been slowly emptying since then to help pay for cleanups. Now that the account is empty, the cleanup program depends on general tax revenues for funding, which some Democrats and environmental groups say violates the "polluter pays" principle behind Superfund. But reinstatement of the tax is opposed by Republican leaders and the chemical industry, which paid billions that went into the Superfund account. Many of the biggest remaining Superfund sites were created by mining and smelting industries that never paid taxes into the fund.

Meanwhile, many in Congress are concerned about a recent Environmental Protection Agency plan to relax the regulation of certain hazardous waste materials, according to the Senate minority staffer. Under a proposal made in October 2003, any hazardous materials that are generated and reclaimed in a continuous process within the same industry would no longer be defined as hazardous waste. The proposed rule would exempt these materials from the stringent hazardous waste regulations that are expensive for industry to comply with.

Major beneficiaries of the proposed change include manufacturers of inorganic chemicals, plastic materials and resins, pharmaceutical preparations, industrial organic chemicals, and cyclic crudes and intermediates, according to EPA.

The Senate aide says a number of lawmakers are concerned that the EPA proposal would eliminate cradle-to-grave tracking for the affected hazardous materials. In addition, they fear the proposal removes an important economic incentive to curtail creation of hazardous waste under current regulations--because hazardous waste handling is so expensive. If the hazardous materials covered by the proposal are no longer considered waste, the financial incentive against generating them no longer exists, he explains.

In the international arena, U.S. participation in three key global treaties that govern the use and handling of certain chemicals hinges on legislative action this year by House and Senate agriculture panels, Republican and Senate minority aides say. Two of those agreements address persistent organic pollutants--one is global while the other covers a region encompassing North America and Europe. The third treaty requires developing countries to provide "prior informed consent" before accepting shipments of certain toxic substances, including some pesticides.

Chemical makers, environmental groups, and the Bush Administration all support these pacts, but the problem, as with many issues, is getting the Senate to move.

Without legislative action, the U.S. risks being consigned to the sidelines as participants to these treaties begin meeting, perhaps in early 2005. The U.S. then would have diminished sway if the treaty countries move to add more chemicals and restrictions to the pacts. For the U.S. to become a partner in the pacts, Congress must amend some provisions of two U.S. laws governing the manufacture of chemicals--the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)--so they conform with the provisions of the international accords.

Such legislation (S. 1486) is pending in the Senate. The Environment & Public Works Committee in July 2003 marked up and approved portions of the bill pertaining to TSCA. The Agriculture Nutrition & Forestry Committee, which holds jurisdiction over FIFRA, must also move the bill before the legislation can go to the full Senate for a vote.

Both the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee and the House Agriculture Committee are expected to take up the FIFRA portions of the legislation sometime this year, says a spokesman for the Senate panel. It is unclear whether the Senate committee or the House panel will work on this issue first, he adds.

 

TORT REFORM. This may be the year when tort reform will pass both houses of Congress. The Class Action Fairness Act (S. 1751) would make it easier for class-action lawsuits involving parties from many different states to be heard in federal rather than state court. State courts are considered more favorable to plaintiffs. Since 1997, a tort reform bill with such provisions has passed the House in each session. But similar legislation has been halted in the Senate because not enough members supported it to prevent a filibuster.

But this year, says Don Evans, senior counsel at the American Chemistry Council, 62 senators have declared support for S. 1751. Last year, only 59 supported it--one vote short of the 60 required to defeat a filibuster. The three new senators on board are Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Currently, Evans says, "some trial lawyers are seriously abusing the legal system by filing class-action lawsuits in carefully selected state jurisdictions where the judges and juries are extremely pro-plaintiff"--jurisdictions such as Beaumont, Texas, and Madison County, Ill. "As a result, companies just aren't getting a fair hearing," he says. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has indicated he plans to bring the bill to a floor vote in February.

Most environmental and consumer groups are opposed to tort reform. They say it will erode the meager power that consumers have to obtain compensation for damage from toxic chemicals.

 

FOOD SAFETY. Legislation to increase regulation of genetically modified food and animals is not likely to be passed this year. However, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) plans to reintroduce the genetically engineered food act (S. 3095) he sponsored in 2002. It amends the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act to require premarket approval of transgenic animals and crops in a process that is transparent and allows for public participation. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) reintroduced several bills last fall that would require labeling of genetically engineered foods and treatment of them as food additives.

None of these bills is expected to garner much support. However, "if you had another incident similar to StarLink, that could cause a whole flurry of legislative activity," says Gregory Jaffe, director of the Project on Biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. StarLink was a genetically modified corn not approved for food that somehow got mixed into the food supply in 2000.

Driving activity to increase oversight of the food supply this year is the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). After this first case was discovered near the end of last year, public interest and consumer groups began working hard to garner support for expanded BSE testing and measures that would help prevent the spread of the disease. There is broad interest in assuring the public and trading partners that U.S. beef is safe. Since that BSE case appeared, more than 30 countries have decided not to import any U.S. beef.

Congress is responding to the health and economic threats with new legislation. This month, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) plan to introduce bills that would require rapid BSE tests on all slaughtered cattle over 24 months old and an animal identification program that could trace the origins of particular cattle if new BSE cases emerge. "There is a need for better identification of animals in the food chain," says Caroline Smith de Waal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

For cattle older than 24 months, the legislation would also prohibit what are called specified risk materials from entering the human food supply. These include brains, vertebral columns, spinal cords, and other bovine tissues likely to harbor high levels of infective abnormal prions in a BSE-infected animal. The bills would also outlaw the processing for any use of any species of animal exhibiting neurological disease, such as deer with chronic wasting disease. Currently, such animals can be processed into pet food and chicken feed.

 

SCIENCE POLICY. Congressional interest in the policies and activities of NIH will continue to be high in the next session. The agency is facing a number of questions on management issues from both the House and Senate.

In the House, the Committee on Energy & Commerce is continuing its investigation of ethics issues such as potential conflicts of interest by NIH employees (C&EN, Dec. 15, 2003, page 10; Jan. 12, page 7) and whether NIH officials accepted inappropriate lecture honorariums. Hearings on these and related matters are expected to be scheduled early in the session.

On the Senate side, the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee that deals with NIH is also looking into the NIH management issues. The first of what may be a series of hearings to look into the conflict of interest allegations was scheduled for Jan. 22.

As NIH also faces a second year of requests for small increases in the fiscal 2005 budget, both committees will also be looking closely at how NIH spends its money. Legislators will watch how the agency's road map of new initiatives (C&EN, Oct. 6, 2003, page 10) plays out in light of the tight budget. Congress also will take a closer look at how much money NIH is spending on research for individual diseases. The close eye on NIH's spending will likely stir up renewed interest on the appropriateness of NIH's funding of certain behavioral research studies.

In other science policy issues, the House Science Committee will continue its work on legislation not completed last year. For example, the committee will keep a close eye on reauthorization legislation for the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (H.R. 2608), which puts the National Institute of Standards & Technology in charge of the program. The bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate for consideration. And the House Science Committee will push legislation that expands research programs on harmful freshwater and saltwater algae blooms (H.R. 1856). The committee approved the legislation, which is currently in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

 
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