Today, House Republicans made it clear just how antiscience they are (as if we didn’t know already): they voted down a simple amendment declaring the reality of climate change. Not that it was human-caused, or dangerous, just that it existed. Which it does.
The amendment was presented by Henry Waxman (D-CA) to the Energy and Commerce Committee. All the Democrats voted for it, all the Republicans voted against it. So there you go. As Waxman said,
This finding is so obviously correct that there should be no need to offer the amendment.
Yet, it was voted down. The Republicans also rejected a second amendment declaring that climate change is in large part due to human actions. Since that one philosophically at least depended on the Waxman amendment, it’s no surprise it was voted down as well.
Y’know, whenever I use the term denier (as in "global warming denier") I get lots of comments accusing me of using a loaded word. But it’s not: it’s precise, and given what we’re seeing in Congress, it’s the exact word to use.
And this all comes on the heels of a rousing video of Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) that sums up this whole thing extremely well. It came out last week, and it’s fantastic:
Representative Markey gave this short speech at a meeting of the Energy and Power subcommittee (part of the Energy and Commerce committee) on March 10. Here’s the transcript in all its awesomeness:
Many times, when I post about political antiscience, I get some people who are very upset that I don’t point out when liberals or Democrats attack reality. While I do disagree with some or even many of the Democrats’ planks, they typically are not the ones rabidly attacking science. For the most part these days, those on the left are more supportive of science than those on the right. Stem cell research, evolution, climate change, cosmology… these are not generally targets of those on the left.
So it was with some grim amusement that two articles came up one after the other recently in my RSS feed reader: one from Chris Mooney at The Intersection, where he points out that attacks on global warming come almost exclusively from Republicans (and you can read more from Chris about this on DeSmogBlog), and the other by Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas where he frets — and rightfully (haha) so — about Eric Cantor’s gearing up to attack science en masse when Congress reconvenes.
I have a lot of worries about the new Republican majority in the House, and you can get a taste of them in an earlier blog post. Everything I’ve read and seen in the few days since I’ve posted that hasn’t exactly been reassuring, either: John Boehner just announced that when the Republicans take over, they’ll dismantle the House Select Committee on Global Warming.
I just finished watching the members of the U.S. House of Representatives debate the NASA authorization bill. The bill was passed, and I’m glad, but that was a sickening debate.
I watched the speeches live on C-SPAN. Many Representatives of both parties didn’t like parts of the bill, but felt it was important to pass it. I agree; I have reservations with it as well. However, most of this bill is just fine, and hits the right notes.
Not everyone agreed. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) strongly opposed the bill, for example (interestingly, she’s Chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and her husband and brother-in-law are astronauts). She apparently is one of the few people still holding onto the idea that we should continue to work on the Constellation rocket system which will be defunded with this bill. I disagree with her on that quite strongly (see below).
She did make some good points, things I myself said in my earlier post. For example, the bill is too specific in what kind of rocket should succeed the Shuttle. That’s not for Congress to decide; they should make broader goals that align with what NASA wants to do, and then allow NASA engineers to make the system. Of course, there was consulting with NASA on the bill, but the bill itself shouldn’t go into details like that. Anyway, despite that, I strongly disagree with Rep. Giffords that this bill should have been voted down.
What really galled me, though, was that several Republicans blamed President Obama for NASA’s current mess, including Ralph Hall (R-TX, remember him?). This is grossly and demonstrably unfair and untrue. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) hammered over and again the idea that Obama is trying to kill the manned space program. That is not true, and in fact the current situation (including the five year gap between the Shuttle and any follow-on rocket system) started in the Bush Administration. Constellation has been in trouble for some time, behind schedule and over-budget. I’m of the opinion that Obama’s plan to defund Constellation does not kill the manned space program as Culberson said it will. I have written about this repeatedly: far from killing it, this new direction may save NASA from the mess it finds itself in right now.
Hey, remember Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX) who inserted a totally non sequitur amendment into a science research and education funding bill in a blatant partisan ploy to derail the bill and make Democrats look bad? And remember how the Democrats tried to compromise, removing almost $40 billion of the funding from the bill, but Republicans still stonewalled?
After the Democrats managed to pass the bill despite this, guess what the honorable Ralph Hall had to say. Go on. Guess.
After Republicans twice stalled it, the America COMPETES Act was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 262-150.
I have the history of this bill outlined in an earlier post. It failed the first time it went to vote because a Republican Congressman used some shameful politics to derail it, and the second time because to bring the Act to the House Floor for a vote, the Democratic majority had to put it in to pass with a 2/3 majority. Too many Republicans still voted against it, claiming it was too much spending.
That, to be blunt, is garbage. This Act makes sure we have enough money funding science and technology to grow our economy. Not passing it would be like eating your seed corn. As Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) says,
"It shouldn’t take three votes to pass legislation to support the research vital to long term economic growth. If half of economic growth in the last half century is attributable to technological developments and innovations, then we can’t afford to presume that U.S. leadership in innovation is a given. If we intend to lead the global economy, we must tend to our innovation infrastructure, as this bill does."
I know that there are rules to the way laws are made by our government here in the U.S., and that sometimes these rules seem weird and arcane. In general, these rules have evolved to make sure that the majority doesn’t stomp on the minority, and the minority still has a voice.
But it’s also clear that those rules can be abused. In the case of U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX), “abuse” isn’t nearly a big enough word. “Cynically manipulated” might be a bit better. He killed a bill that would fund science innovation and education by tying it to punishing people who look at porn at work.
Seriously. This is truly disgusting, and has to be seen to be believed. Please read that link above.
Basically, the America COMPETES act, instituted under the Bush Administration in 2007, funds a lot of technology and other endeavors to keep the US competitive in the world market. Of course, in the current economic market, we don’t have a lot of money to go around. But this bill would have re-authorized that earlier act, funding what is essentially seed corn, making sure that in the years to come we have a robust investment in our own economy. I wasn’t that familiar with it, but after reading about it I’ll say it’s one of the few things done by the previous President I think is a good idea. So did a lot of others: this reauthorization bill had over 100 co-sponsors in the House.
I say “had”, because after the shameful and politically transparent move by Rep. Hall, the bill is basically dead.