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Senators urge appropriators to add $350M for science

Money would be added to the upcoming fiscal 2008 war supplemental spending bill.

A bipartisan group of senators this week wrote to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to add $350 million for science programs to the upcoming fiscal 2008 war supplemental spending bill.

The letter was spearheaded by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and ranking member Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who also is the ranking member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the Energy Department's Office of Science.

"We recognize the pressure you face to minimize the size of supplemental appropriations bills in the face of competing budgetary priorities," the senators wrote. "However, we strongly believe that it is necessary to provide critically needed research funding immediately to avoid unintended and permanent damage to our critical scientific infrastructure and our standing in the world as the leader in science."

Also signing the letter were Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander and GOP Sen. Bob Corker, both of Tennessee, which is home to the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York, Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., also signed it.

Their letter specifically requests that $250 million be allocated to the Energy Department's Office of Science to keep up the United States' commitment to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, retain Fermi National Laboratory in Durbin's home state of Illinois as "the nation's premier high physics facility" and help other Energy Department laboratories around the country continue their research.

The remaining $100 million would be for the National Science Foundation. Association of American Universities President Robert Berdahl praised the senators' efforts.

"We appreciate the efforts of these senators to begin to correct a critical mistake made last year by Congress and the president. The failure of Congress and the president to provide new investments in science in fiscal 2008 that were both promised and needed is causing real harm to our nation's scientific enterprise and therefore to the nation's long-term economic competitiveness," he said in a statement.