Senate conferees, hurrying to agree on final 1991 spending bills, yesterday compromised on a $1.9 billion allocation for NASA's space station, beefed up the Internal Revenue Service's tax enforcement by $250 million above the Senate figure, and channeled millions of dollars worth of road building and housing projects to their home states.
Along with hundreds of smaller funding disputes that were resolved by the appropriation conferees, $22 billion sum was set aside for the Resolution Trust Corp.'s bailout of failed savings and loans. The money will cover mainly older failures dating to 1988 and earlier. William Seidman, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., told Congress the amount was needed to "save" several billion dollars more within the hemorrhaging system. The appropriation will affect the 1991 deficit, but under a White House-Congress deficit deal the $22 billion won't have to come out of the pool of funds that the appropriation committees use for ongoing government programs and operations.
The space station, which is suffering a crisis of confidence among supporters as a result of technical and management problems, got a cautious vote of confidence from the appropriators. Though the figure was below the House recommendation, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) warned NASA against poor-mouthing.
"The space program has been increased by 13 percent so it's not as if we've gouged them," she said. She said NASA's $13.9 billion budget will enable it to work on its problems with the shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Elsewhere, appropriations conferees sent a warning to Japan by agreeing on legislation to ban foreign contractors from bidding on U.S. public works projects if U.S. contractors are kept from competing in those foreign countries. The president could waive the provision in the "public interest."