Catching Up: Senate Reorganization (Appropriations and Commerce)

[Apologies once again for the lag in posts. I’ve been in babyland.]
The Senate has finally begun to get its act together and organize some key committees, announcing yesterday the chairs and ranking members of the 10 Commerce Committee subcommittees and last week announcing a reorganization of the Appropriations Committee to fall more in line with the House Appropriations revamp (as we predicted).
On the Commerce Committee, the new chairs and ranking members that are likely most relevant to computing researchers are Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) who take over as the chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Science and Space; and Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and John Kerry, chair and ranking member of the new Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation and Competitiveness. The agenda for this new subcommittee hasn’t yet been set, but given that it’s grown out of the work of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force headed by Ensign, chances are good that it will involve itself in issues important to the computing community.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, initially reluctant to adopt the House Appropriations reorganization, ultimately decided that failing to adopt some realignment would guarantee chaos come conference time and agreed to reshape the panel to reflect most of the changes made by the House. Most importantly to computing researchers, the Senate VA-HUD committee, which included responsibility for NASA and NSF, was dissolved and its jurisdiction the two science agencies was placed in the new Commerce-Justice-Science panel, matching the House plan. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will take the helm of the new subcommittee, meaning that long-term NSF champion Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) will no longer oversee the agency in the appropriations process. It’s not clear how Shelby’s leadership will impact the NSF budget, though he has apparently said that within the committee, NASA and NSF are his number one and two priorities. In any case, a new chairman represents a new opportunity for the science community to make the case for priority. On the minority side, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, long-term NSF champion and former ranking member on VA-HUD, will join Shelby as ranking member on the new panel.