Source: Times Free Press Clint Cooper |  September 14, 2018

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has shephered one of three appropriations bills, including much funding for the 3rd Congressional District, through the Senate. Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

President Donald Trump is often criticized unjustly by the left for being anti-science, so it may come as a surprise when he signs — as he will be expected to — appropriations bills that provide in some cases record levels of funding for several science-related projects and departments.

Earlier this week, the United States Senate passed three appropriations bill that were on time and within budget. That, in itself, may not seem like such an accomplishment. But, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, that is the first time in nearly 10 years the body followed the practice of regular order for appropriations bills from start to finish

The Senate package, which passed 92-5, covered energy and water development and related agencies appropriations, legislative branch appropriations, and military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies appropriations.

The $147 billion package, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of all fiscal 2019 discretionary spending, including the military and most civilian agencies, now goes to the House for final consideration before being sent to Trump.

Thus, at least three bills — and more if the Senate does the work it should — will not be a part of any continuing resolution the body signs after the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year on Oct. 1, or, worse, any giant omnibus bill the body too often signs in a hurry in order to wind up business before the Christmas holidays.

Trump, who signed an omnibus bill last year monetizing his first budget, said he would not sign another such bloated bill.

Alexander is chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee and was appointed to chair the Senate-House conference committee that resolved differences between the bills passed previously by both bodies.

Within that appropriations bill are, among other things in the 3rd Congressional District, $27.6 million for the Center for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, $117.7 million to continue construction of the replacement Chickamauga Lock, $200 million for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (an increase of $37.5 million above last year) within the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and $703 million for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. The latter amount, according to the senator, keeps the project on time and on budget with a completion year of 2025.

Further, the appropriation bill provides $7.2 billion to support cleanup efforts at Cold War-era hazardous materials sites, including $646 million for the East Tennessee Technology Park, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex, all in Oak Ridge.

The bill provides a record level of funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, a record level of funding in a regular appropriations bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, funding that meets or exceeds Harbor Maintenance Fund spending targets, and a record level of funding in a regular appropriations bill for the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy.

“It is important that the American people know,” Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor, “that the Republican majority in Congress worked together with Democrats to provide record levels of funding for science, research and technology. So I will say to all to all those who may not have noticed this quiet, new development that Congress is funding science and research at record levels, and that [as] we continue to do so we will make America more competitive and help spur innovation and create good-paying jobs.”

Were there any lingering doubts about Trump’s commitment to science, Tennessee’s senior senator said earlier this year at the Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit that he would try to persuade the president to make funding for government sponsored research a part of the president’s “America First” agenda.

Following nuclear power, the polio vaccine, the personal computer and the internet, Alexander said in May, “it’s hard to think of a major technological advancement since WWII that hasn’t drawn some support from government research.”

We hope this return to regular order, this bipartisan work on such a significant part of the discretionary budget, and this investment in science and technology convince others in Congress that members working together are able to accomplish far more than members and parties working apart. We hope it’s the start of something catching.