House GOP grounds Gore's satellite plan

NASA bill passes House without funds for Triana

May 20, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans fired a political rocket at Vice President Al Gore yesterday, dropping funding for a project he had proposed for the nation's space budget.

At issue was Gore's idea for sending up a new U.S. satellite, to be called Triana, that would transmit pictures 24 hours a day to the Internet, showing images of cloud formations, large fires and other phenomena.

The likely Democratic presidential nominee touted the proposal as a way to help interest young people in science and the environment and "to reach new heights of understanding and insight."

President Clinton included the project in his fiscal year 2000 budget.

But congressional Republicans jettisoned the project from a $41 billion appropriations bill for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the House passed the money measure yesterday -- without funding for Triana.

Chris Lehane, Gore's spokesman, told reporters that Republicans were "Luddites" who were bringing politics into science.

His reference was to 19th-century English workers who smashed newly invented machines in a misguided effort to save their obsolete jobs.

At the same time, White House aides hinted that the president might veto the NASA bill if the Triana project were not restored.

They said NASA has committed $21 million to the program and probably will spend $20 million more by Sept. 30, when the 1999 fiscal year ends.

But Republicans held firm, contending that the project is unnecessary because existing weather satellites can do the job.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas distributed a list of Internet addresses that already carry real-time photos of Earth.

The House Science Committee recommended instead shifting $32.2 million previously earmarked for Triana to finance additional cancer research.

The Maryland delegation's votes were along party lines, with all of the Republican representatives supporting the measure and all of the Democrats opposing it.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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