Two House members recently proposed an amendment to create an independent commission
to study charges that the Bush Administration has politicized scientific
advice. The amendment to H.R. 2432, the Paperwork and Regulatory Improvements
Act, introduced by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Tierney (D-MA),
was rejected by a vote of 201-226 on May 18. Most members voted along
party lines, with one Republican voting for the amendment and five Democrats
voting against it. Members' votes on Roll Call Vote 187 can be found
on the Library of Congress web site, THOMAS, at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2004/roll187.xml.
As reported in FYI #64, Waxman, the Ranking Minority Member of the Government
Reform Committee, was the initiator of a report that charges the Administration
with manipulating scientific advice and information for ideological
and political purposes. Selected excerpts from the floor debate on this
HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA): "We as policymakers or the regulatory
agencies need good science, science that has not been interfered with
by politicians. That is why the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney)
and I are offering this amendment to establish an independent commission
to investigate whether science is being politicized and to make recommendations
to Congress to protect scientific integrity. This amendment responds
to the concerns of the scientific community. Twenty Nobel Laureates,
major scientific organizations, and leading scientific and medical journals
have protested a pattern of political interference with science by the
Bush administration. This pattern has involved gagging scientists, suppressing
research, and rewriting reports to eliminate scientific answers that
conflict with the administration's political or ideological agenda.
It has also involved misleading the public and Congress on key scientific
facts, manipulating performance measures for ideologically favored programs,
and stacking advisory committees, scientific advisory committees stacked
with people who will come up with the right political answer."
NICK SMITH (R-MI): "I would suggest this kind of partisan
language would not be appropriate in any legislation. I assume the goal
of the gentleman from California (Mr. Waxman) is not to politicize science
and research, yet I respectfully suggest that is what this amendment
does. And the comments of the gentleman on the floor were sort of blasting
the Bush administration for some of the things that they have done....
This amendment requires that a commission be created to study the politicization
of science by the Bush administration. What we all sort of agree is,
politicizing this is what we are doing with this amendment."
SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): "We have an oversight role, and under
our watch, science is being subverted to promote political and ideological
goals.... This is a dangerous, dangerous precedent. This did not happen
with President Bush, Sr., it did not happen with President Clinton,
it did not happen with President Reagan, it did not happen with Republican
or Democratic Presidents the way it is happening today under this very
politicized, very partisan, very ideologically driven White House....
I don't think we have had this kind of cynicism that we see today with
respect to objective scientific advice since I have been watching government,
which is quite a long time."
PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): "What we are talking about is having
rules and regulations based on good science that makes sense.... The
amendment is purely a political attack on the Bush administration and
asserts that political considerations have undermined the quality and
use of science. Listen to what President Bush's science adviser, Dr.
Marburger, recently stated, The President believes that policies
should be made with the best and most complete information possible
and expects his administration to conduct its business with integrity
and in a way that fulfills that belief.' Mr. Chairman, this is a good
bill and it is a bad amendment."
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D-TX): "It is true that the plural
of anecdote is not data. However, at some point a series of anecdotes
begins to look like a pattern. The pattern is disturbing and threatens
to undermine our ability to rely on scientific and technical information
as we weigh alternative policies. At a minimum, the number of cases
and the range of scientific issues they encompass create the perception
that the Federal science advisory process has been undermined by politics.
The perception alone is damaging. Policymakers and the public must have
confidence in scientific information and scientific advice provided
TOM DAVIS (R-VA): "The amendment is supposed to create
an expert commission to study the politicization of science and make
recommendations for how to protect science in the regulatory process
from political and ideological manipulation and interference. The problem
with a commission like this is it is designed to find a problem and
highlight it. Whether the problem is real or serious the commission
fails if it finds nothing at all. This is the kind of unfair fishing
expedition that can only harm and destroy public faith in the Federal
rulemaking process.... There is no question that the Bush administration
is surpassing previous administrations in its commitment to good science....
Mr. Chairman, it does not make sense to fund an unneeded commission
with a predetermined finding that will misrepresent the good work of
JOHN TIERNEY (D-MA): "I am always amazed to see how frightening
it is for our colleagues to be confronted with a nonpartisan study,
and that would be by a commission that was appointed by the President
and by members of that party and members of this party.... It is our
obligation, if the President is putting a twist onto different regulations
and either avoiding their implementation or manipulating them and missing
science altogether, our obligation is to make sure this is set right;
and a commission should look at it to make sure that all regulations
are either enforced or implemented based on good, hard science and not
ideology and politics, as many are accusing the President of doing....
I would assume there are members in the Republican Party who are sensible
enough to want to have a good analysis of this done, and want to put
aside all of the political shenanigans of this administration."
DOUG OSE (R-CA): "If my colleagues look at the amendment,
it refers to a report put out by the minority staff entitled, Politics
and Science in the Bush Administration.' We have not had that report
vetted. It was issued by the minority staff. There has been no input
by the majority staff or review. I daresay that that would be a very,
very dangerous template to set for this Congress, because who knows
what other committees might adopt majority or minority reports and then
just jam them down the other side's throat. I would urge my colleagues
to oppose this amendment and instead seek to have it discussed under
the purview of the Committee on Science.... This may well be a very
serious issue, but this is not the vehicle where it should properly