The president's financial plan looks good on paper, but Congress now faces the tough job of reconciling promises with harsh reality.

WASHINGTON--Benjamin Franklin, the story goes, was asked what he and his fellow statesmen had produced during their deliberations in that steamy Philadelphia summer of 1776. "A republic," he answered, "if you can keep it."

Every federal budget raises anew the question of whether a large increase sought for any one program will come at the expense of other programs. For scientists, the issue is best symbolized this year by the supercollider, for which the administration wants $300 million more on the road to completing the $8.25 billion facility in 1999.

Administration officials say they have adhered to a promise to scientists that the 54-mile-long proton-proton accelerator will not drain funds from other research projects, both within the Energy Department and throughout the government. But many analysts express disbelief at...

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