Category Archives: Science

Grassley Presses National Science Foundation on Response to Pornography Incidents

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Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) “has resumed his crusade to combat pornography at the National Science Foundation,” POLITICO reports.

The Iowa Republican sent a letter to agency leaders this week seeking answers after a whistleblower informed his office that NSF has failed to crack down on employees caught accessing pornography on their work computers.

In the letter obtained by POLITICO, Grassley asks the agency to verify the confidential source’s litany of allegations – including charges that the NSF’s technology to block pornography has manifestly failed, that employees have devised ways around those impasses by sharing illicit photos on Microsoft PowerPoint, and that no infrastructure exists to hold employees accountable for their misdeeds.

While the whistleblower’s charges are unconfirmed, the letter marks the latest in a series of alarms raised by Grassley and various federal officials with employees’ alleged illicit browsing habits on NSF workstations – a seemingly “pervasive problem,” the senator writes, at an agency with a roughly $6 billion budget.

An NSF official said late Thursday that Grassley’s letter merely repeated charges the senator made last year, and that the agency has had “zero incidents” since it added online filters.

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Senate Fails to Invoke Cloture on Commerce/Justice Appropriations Bill

Senators have failed to invoke cloture on the 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2847) by a vote of 56 to 38.

The cloture vote actually took place on the Senate substitute amendment which is being inserted in place of the House text. Sixty votes were needed to pass this cloture motion.

This has been a bit of a rarity thus far in the Appropriations process, with numerous bills being amended and voted out without need for cloture motions to end a stalemate.

A clearly frustrated Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) essentially said that he’ll force another vote when he has enough members available to pass this cloture motion. That means only germane amendments would be available for debate and a vote. Reid said he may consider still allowing those to be called up, although he pointed out that it was not necessarily required once cloture has been invoked.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that Reid was making too big of a deal out of this vote. He thought members were very close to reaching an agreement on a list of amendments to take up and encouraged Democratic leaders to continue those talks instead of forcing an end to the debate.

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Ensign Motion to Recommit Commerce/Justice Bill Falls

A motion to recommit the 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2847) has been defeated by a vote of 33 to 65.  It was offered by Senator John Ensign (R-NV).

The motion would instruct relevant Appropriations subcommittee members to reduce spending in the bill back to 2009 levels.

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Bunning Commerce/Justice 72-Hour Bill Review Amendment Defeated

An amendment offered by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) to the 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2847) has been struck down procedurally by the Senate parliamentarian.

The amendment would require a 72-hour period for the review of any bill and an official Congressional Budget Office score before a final vote could occur on legislation.

Floor manager of the underlying Commerce bill, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), said it violated a portion of Rule 16 of the Senate Rules.

4. On a point of order made by any Senator, no amendment offered by any other Senator which proposes general legislation shall be received to any general appropriation bill, nor shall any amendment not germane or relevant to the subject matter contained in the bill be received; nor shall any amendment to any item or clause of such bill be received which does not directly relate thereto; nor shall any restriction on the expenditure of the funds appropriated which proposes a limitation not authorized by law be received if such restriction is to take effect or cease to be effective upon the happening of a contingency; and all questions of relevancy of amendments under this rule, when raised, shall be submitted to the Senate and be decided without debate; and any such amendment or restriction to a general appropriation bill may be laid on the table without prejudice to the bill.

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McCain Public Telecommunications Facilities Program Commerce/Justice Amendment Defeated

An amendment offered by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to the 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2847) has been defeated by a vote of 33 to 64.

The amendment would eliminate $20 million in earmarked funds for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program.  The program awards competitive grants.  It’s operated under the Department of Commerce.

The Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) assists, through matching grants, in the planning and construction of public telecommunications facilities in order to: (1) extend delivery of services to as many citizens as possible by the most cost-effective means, including the use of broadcast and non-broadcast technologies. (2) increase public telecommunications services and facilities available to, operated by, and controlled by minorities and women; (3) strengthen the capability of existing public TV and radio stations to provide public telecommunications services to the public.

Senator McCain argued in a floor statement that President Obama proposed to eliminate this program’s funding in his budget request.

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