Wolf, OSTP Settle China Spat

An influential Republican member of Congress has declared a truce in his fight with the White House over U.S. scientific collaboration with China. The move would erase budget cuts imposed on a small office run by John Holdren, the president's science adviser, in return for Holdren's promise to safeguard national and economic secrets during exchanges and to avoid interacting with any Chinese officials involved in human rights violations.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), a fierce critic of China's policy toward Tibet and its persecution of religious and human rights activists, chairs the House of Representatives' spending panel that oversees the budgets of several science agencies and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which Holdren directs. Last fall, he slashed OSTP's budget by nearly one-third to punish what he saw as the Obama Administration's naivety in dealing with Chinese officials.

The White House bristled at Wolf's criticism, which initially included a prohibition on any exchanges. Administration officials claimed that language infringed on the president's constitutional powers to conduct foreign policy, and ignored the ban. But eventually, Holdren agreed to give the spending panel 30-days' notice of any bilateral meetings and to certify that U.S. interests would be protected in any sharing of information or technology.

With that agreement in hand, Wolf decided to relent on OSTP's budget. The 2013 spending bill would give the office the $5.85 million it had requested for 2013. Last week, the equivalent spending panel in the Senate also endorsed the full request for OSTP.