Key Members of Congress on Science Committees Are Refusing to Answer Science Questions
If presidential candidates will, why won't they?
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Sep 12, 2012 | Comments (0)
President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have answered 14 of the nation's top science questions, but of the many committee leaders in Congress who deal with the nation's science policy, just two—Reps Henry Waxman and Chris Van Hollen—have responded to the ScienceDebate questions for Congress. And two of more—Senator Jeff Sessions and House Speaker John Boehner—have declined to answer the questions.
This raises an important question: if the candidates for president will discuss the nation's top science issues, why won't the key members of Congress who lead the committees that deal with science policy? The nation's responses to dozens of critical questions—from climate change to water quality to protecting the Internet—originate not with the president, but in Congress.
Understanding why members would be refusing is difficult in a time when jobs are top of mind. Science drives over half of US economic growth and lies at the center of several of our most critical national challenges and opportunities in areas as diverse as the economy, public health, and the environment. Many of the leading science organizations in the United States arrived at a consensus on the Top American Science Questions: Congressional Edition, and the effort is supported by nearly two hundred science organizations and universities, and tens of thousands of individuals, ranging from concerned citizens to Nobel laureates and corporate CEOs.
And yet, most of the members of Congress who received the ScienceDebate questionnaire, submitted to them by ScienceDebate and Scientific American magazine, are currently ignoring it or actively declining to answer questions about their policy views on science-related issues.
Three others—Sen. Harkin, Rep. Johnson and Rep Bishop—have told the groups they intend to reply but have not yet, and a few more—Rep. Mica, Sen. Wyden, Sen. Alexander, Rep. Gibbs, Rep. Markey, and Sen. Murkowski—say they are "considering" it.
Here are the elected officials that lead key science-related committees who are ignoring the Top American Science Questions put to them by ScienceDebate.org, Scientific American, and more than a dozen other leading US science organizations:
- Lamar Alexander: Tennessee (R)—ranking member, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
- Barbara Boxer: California (D)—chair, Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Jim DeMint: South Carolina (R)—member, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchinson is retiring)
- Michael Enzi: Wyoming (R)—ranking member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
- Dianne Feinstein: California (D)—chair, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
- Tom Harkin: Iowa (D)—chair, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
- James Inhofe: Oklahoma (R)—ranking member, Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Mitch McConnell: Kentucky (R)—Senate minority leader
- Patty Murray: Washington State (D)—member, Committee on the Budget (Chairman Kent Conrad is retiring)
- Lisa Murkowski: Alaska (R)—ranking member, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- Harry Reid: Nevada (D)—Senate majority leader
- Pat Roberts: Kansas (R)—ranking member, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
- Jay Rockefeller: West Virginia (D)—chair, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
- Jeff Sessions: Alabama (R)—ranking member, Committee on the Budget
- Debbie Stabenow: Michigan (D)—chair, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
- Ron Wyden: Oregon (D)—member, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Chairman Jeff Bingaman is retiring)
House of Representatives
- Timothy Bishop: New York State–1 (D)—ranking member, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
- John Boehner: Ohio–8 (R)—speaker of the House
- Scott Garrett: New Jersey–5 (R)—vice chair, Committee on the Budget (Chair Paul Ryan is the Republican vice presidential candidate)
- Bob Gibbs: Ohio–18 (R)—chair, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
- Ralph Hall: Texas–4 (R)—chair, Committee on Science, Space and Technology
- Doc Hastings: Washington State–4 (R)—chair, Committee on Natural Resources
- Eddie Bernice Johnson: Texas–30 (D)—ranking member, Committee on Science, Space and Technology
- Frank Lucas: Oklahoma–3 (R)—chair, Committee on Agriculture; member of Committee on Science, Space and Technology
- Edward J. Markey: Massachusetts–7 (D)—ranking member, Committee on Natural Resources
- John Mica: Florida–7 (R)—chair, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
- Nancy Pelosi: California–8 (D)—House minority leader
Shawn Lawrence Otto is an award-winning author, science advocate and filmmaker. He is cofounder and CEO of ScienceDebate.org in which Obama and Romney debate science policy, and author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America,"One of the most important books written in America in the last decade." Starred Kirkus Review; Starred Publishers Weekly review. He is also an award-winning screenwriter. Visit him at http://www.shawnotto.com. Like him on Facebook. Join ScienceDebate.org to get presidential and congressional candidates to debate science.