Rep. Robert Walker, R-Pa., chairman of the House Science Committee, has apparently abandoned plans to create a new Department of Science. Instead, he's looking to give a reformed Department of Energy the task. By transferring various science offices there -- NASA, parts of the Environmental Protection Agency, etc. -- the government's science programs could be better coordinated, reduced in price by roughly $3 billion and also be protected from unwise budget cuts imposed by the various non-science committees on the Hill, Walker said.

Walker has also backed away from a proposal by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, to scale back the Energy Department's labs with the same congressional base-closing process used to close many Pentagon bases. The Commerce Department's future is getting darker, now that the aggressive Republican freshmen have won a promise from GOP leaders to include a death sentence for the department in this year's reconciliation bill. The bill is intended to balance the budget by 2002.

The Small Business Administration wants to shorten the time minority-owned businesses can declare themselves to be small and disadvantaged, and may also reduce the wealth limits for minority business owners claiming to be economically disadvantaged, says Robert Neal, associate deputy administrator for minority contracting at SBA.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing a new law to crack down on the sale of counterfeit goods, including computer parts and software. Hatch's proposal is called the Anti-counterfeiting Consumer Protection Act of 1995.

A coalition of right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats are holding up congressional anti-terrorism bills, arguing that civil liberties are threatened by the proposals' expansion of the government's authority to tap mobile phones and other telecom conveniences. The measures are being pushed by senior Republicans and are backed by President Clinton.

President Clinton has appointed 2,800 officials to senior government positions. Future presidents will be able to appoint only 2,000 officials, if Congress approves bills sponsored by Reps. Bill Luther, D-Minn.; Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn.; and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

The Energy Department will cut $1.7 billion over the next five years by laying off 3,788 employees, according to a plan announced May 3 by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.

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