As Congress continues to debate federal budgets, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) was named to the budget-writing Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee is the largest in the U.S. Senate, consisting of 30 members. Its role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" prior to the expenditure of any money from the Federal treasury. Merkley, still in his first term in the Senate, becomes the first Oregon Senator since the late-Senator and appropriations chairman Mark Hatfield to serve on the committee. His subcommittee assignments are of particular interest to the higher education community and include: the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (which has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among other research agencies); the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Relation Agencies; and the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.