“I thought Galileo dealt with this,” commented Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp (ND) at a hearing of the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, referring to recent attention paid to outlandish celebrity social media posts. She continued, “We can't be swimming outside the lanes so far that we have a reasonable dialogue about the Earth being flat.” While this flat-Earth claim is obviously false, the separation between fact and opinion has been a major topic in politics this year and in the science policymaking realm in particular.
An English major, inspired by watching astronauts land on the moon, changes her career path. Who is the mystery woman, who recently admitted, “I was the most unlikely person to become a scientist?” None other than Dr. France Córdova who now serves as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
(Click to enlarge) A number of new bills introduced in this Congress were of relevance to the ocean science community. One relates to ocean acification research.(Credit: NOAA) In a scene more appropriate for a college laboratory than the Capitol building (lab safety protocols aside), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) measured pH on the Senate [...]
This week, students and coders in 20 cities across the country voluntarily gathered to collect and back up copies of federal climate data, while on Capitol Hill, lawmakers discussed the future of the Earth Science Mission at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The mission monitors more than a dozen earth science satellites that provide data on the ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere and account for about $2 billion of NASA's $20 billion budget.
It’s hard to keep up with the overabundance of news coming out of D.C., so it would be easy to miss last week’s organizational meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. During this time, the committee approved their Authorization and Oversight Plan (which broadly lays out their framework for the 115th Congress) and committee rules.
Republicans on the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology announced their top five priorities for the 115th Congress, with Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) emphasizing the creation of “transparent environmental policies based on sound science and focused on innovation rather than regulation.”
After rescheduled hearings, the Senate moved forward on a number of Trump administration cabinet picks in a tumultuous week of partisan showdowns and dragged-out votes. On Wednesday, 10 empty seats at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing signaled a Democratic boycott on the nomination of Mr. Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, Republicans advanced Mr. Pruitt’s nomination without their counterparts across the aisle by suspending committee rules that required two members of the minority party be present for the vote.
It took only 25 minutes for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to advance 16 bills this week, including several of relevance to the ocean science community. Many of the measures were considered during the 114th Congress, and most had bipartisan support.
Multiple Senate confirmation hearings overlapped last week, forcing members to scurry to and from simultaneous committee meetings. A confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for Representative Ryan Zinke, nominee for Secretary of the Department of Interior (which includes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service), was one of the more contentious ones. Rep. Zinke vowed not to sell nor lease public lands and emphasized support for allowing for extraction activities within them. He acknowledged the changing climate while stepping back from an earlier, stronger stance that called it a ‘threat multiplier’ in respect to national security and committed to maintaining science funding levels with particular interest in more research into “clean coal.”
What does the Department of Commerce, most often regarded for its responsibility in creating conditions for economic growth and opportunity, have to do with the ocean? Within the department lies the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), placed there by an irate President Richard Nixon to keep it out of the control of the Secretary of the Interior (with whom he was feuding). The result is a commerce department with a wide-ranging spectrum of duties that include monitoring weather, enforcing international trade agreements, and regulating exports. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing for Wilbur Ross, President Donald Trump’s Department of Commerce secretary nominee. Mr. Ross is a billionaire investor and a political newcomer with a long history in the steel, textile, automotive, and coal industries.
At a time of acute partisan rhetoric, it’s good to remember that our elected leaders have a long track record of coming together around an issue that impacts us all: science. The passage of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) just before the holidays powerfully underscores that reality. Nothing advances our society more than acquiring new knowledge. As the AICA put it, “Scientific and technological advancement have been the largest drivers of economic growth in the last 50 years.” American discoveries have helped create industries and jobs, protect our war fighter. and have given us a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves.
With the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dominating congressional news this week, one important tidbit might have slipped by – Congress passed a budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 3) that would increase the deficit by $9 trillion from Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2026.