House kills supercollider fate uncertain in Senate

June 25, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — In yesterday's editions, The Sun reported incorrectly the votes of Maryland members of the House on the killing of the superconducting supercollider research project. Voting to kill the project were Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, Constance A. Morella and Albert R. Wynn. Voting to keep the project alive were Reps. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Helen D. Bentley, Wayne T. Gilchrest and Steny H. Hoyer.

The Sun regrets the errors.

WASHINGTON -- The superconducting supercollider smashed into fiscal and political reality yesterday when the House voted overwhelmingly to kill the $8.3 billion project as a "pure science" luxury that a nation bent on serious deficit reduction no longer can afford.

The 280-141 vote cut across party lines and pitted passionate arguments for scientific research against those for deficit reduction.

Proponents said they still hope to resurrect the the giant Texas-based atom smasher in the Senate, replaying events of last year when it was rescued from a similar defeat in the House.


But most lawmakers predicted that yesterday's vote would finally doom a project scorned by one critic as a "scientific Tyrannosaurus rex . . . roving its way through a Jurassic Pork."

Opponents of the collider won 48 more votes than a year ago. Their cause was boosted by reports of more cost overruns and wasteful spending, combined with mounting pressure for spending cuts.

In the Maryland delegation, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of southern Maryland was the only Democrat to vote against the collider. Rep. Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County was the only Republican to support it.

Maryland Democrats voting in favor of the collider were Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, both of Baltimore, and Rep. Albert R. Wynn, of Prince George's County. Republicans voting against it were Rep. Helen Delich Bentley of Baltimore County, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland and Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrist of the Eastern Shore.

Arguing that the collider could end up costing more than $11 billion, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., a member of the Appropriations Committee, echoed the frustration felt by most members as he bellowed into the microphones: "Enough is enough!"

The supercollider "may be nice to have some day, but for now, we need to put it on the shelf until we can afford it . . . Other needs are more urgent," he said.

Mr. Obey and others cited a leaked report by the Energy Department inspector general's office, which criticized the department's financial oversight of the project and found $216 million in unnecessary and unreasonable subcontractor expenses.

"The whole spending history of this project can be summed up with a phrase from a Grateful Dead song: 'Trouble behind, trouble ahead,' " said Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert, R-N.Y. "The American taxpayers are taking it on the chin once again, and they are tired of it."

Mr. Boehlert and Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., sponsored the amendment to cut the super collider funds from a $22 billion spending bill for the Energy Department and other agencies.

The bill, which for the first time in 10 years cuts overall funding for the Energy Department, was later passed, 350-73.

Reflecting the end of the Cold War, the bill also for the first time allocates more money for cleanup and waste management at nuclear weapons facilities managed by the Energy Department than it does for the production of the weapons themselves.

The bill appropriates $6.19 billion for environmental cleanup and waste management activities at nuclear weapons facilities in 1994 and only $5.74 billion for other weapons-related activities -- 22 percent less than last year.

In a victory for environmentalists, the House also voted, 267 to 162, to strip from the bill $62 million in funding for an advanced liquid metal nuclear reactor, which opponents had criticized as a wasteful attempt to revive the breeder technology that Congress abandoned a decade ago when it killed the Clinch River breeder reactor.

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