House Rejects Move to Cut $1.2 Billion from FY 2013 NSF Appropriation

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Publication date: 
23 May 2012

Sixty-three  amendments were offered to H.R. 5326, the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science  Appropriations Bill, when it was considered on the House floor earlier this  month.  Thirty-six of these amendments  were adopted.  Of note were four  amendments to reduce or eliminate funding for the National Science Foundation,  a climate change education program, political science research, and NASA’s  planetary science program.  This is the first  of four FYIs on these amendments.

Rep.  Jeff Flake, a six term Republican representing Arizona’s sixth congressional  district, offered an amendment to reduce the FY 2013 appropriation to the  National Science Foundation by approximately $1.2 billion.  Speaking in opposition to the amendment were  the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, Science  Appropriations Subcommittee.

The  amendment was rejected by a vote   of 121 to 291.  All Members voting for  the amendment were Republicans.  Nineteen  Members did not vote.

The  remarks on this amendment follow:

Rep.  Flake:

“Madam Chair, this amendment would return National  Science Foundation funding to its pre-stimulus level, and it would save the  taxpayers about $1.2 billion.        Just before voting against the stimulus bill a while  ago, I stood in this same Chamber and stated what I thought was pretty obvious  at that time: that the only thing that this stimulus bill would stimulate is  more spending later, and I think we have found that to be the case.

“Leave it to the NSF, an agency that doles out  billions of dollars testing theories, to prove me right on this.    “In the 4 years leading up to the stimulus bill,  funding for the NSF averaged more than $5.7 billion. That's not exactly a drop  in the bucket, even by Washington standards. By comparison, in the 4 years  since the stimulus bill passed, NSF average spending has climbed 31 percent to  a staggering $7.6 billion.    “For whatever reason, rather than draw down from  this inflated level, Congress appears content to maintain it. The bill before  us today funds the NSF at $7.3 billion for fiscal year 2013. That's $300  million more than last year.    “While I acknowledge that the NSF does some noble  work, it also has drawn its fair share of criticism. Notably, there was a  recent investigation by our colleague in the Senate, Senator Tom Coburn. He  identified $3 billion in mismanagement by the agency. The report uncovered a  lot of highly questionable research projects that would be laughable if the  taxpayers weren't paying the tab. Just a few of them here:       -  $755,000 to find out how rumors start. Again,  $755,000 to find out how rumors start;       -  $315,000 to answer if playing FarmVille on  Facebook helps people make friends;        -   And then  there's the infamous $559,000 for a project to have shrimp run on a treadmill.    “To me, that hardly sounds like justification to  give the NSF more money. Rather, Congress ought to make the necessary  commonsense cuts to programs like the NSF that have been far too long bloated  from the stimulus legislation.    “This amendment would employ a reasonable approach  to do that. It would simply reduce NSF funding to the highest pre-stimulus  level of $6 billion. This would save the taxpayers, again, more than $1  billion.    “I think we have to remember that this discretionary  budget that we are dealing with this year, we'll do 12 appropriation bills for  somewhere just over $1 trillion. Our deficit is more than that, meaning that  everything we consider in our process this year, the appropriations process, is  money we are borrowing from our kids and our grandkids. When that is the case,  I think that we need to be a little more prudent about the programs that we  increase funding for. I don't think there's a justification to increase funding  for the National Science Foundation this year.    “And when you look back to 2008, which is where this  would bring us back to if this amendment passes, as I said before, that wasn't  the year where ‘Grapes of Wrath’ music was exactly playing in the background.  That was a year that we spent a lot of money. But we're spending more now, even  given the current deficit that we're running and the current debt that we've  piled up.    “So I would urge support for the passage of this  amendment.   I yield back the balance of my time.”


House  Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka  Fatah (D-PA):

“Even though I agree with my colleague from Arizona  about some of the issues related to trade embargoes with neighboring countries,  in this matter I absolutely oppose him.    “Now, he says that the National Science Foundation,  we should cut it; we should cut it to some mathematical certainty to the 2008  number. Let me just take a minute because I don't want the House to act without  information.    “This is the premiere science research agency in the  world. It is not the only one. We are not shadowboxing with ourselves. We have  a country of 309 million people. Singapore, which is a country of 4.8, less  than 5 million people, probably less people than in the Phoenix area alone,  invests some $7 billion in their National Science Foundation. They're stealing  talent from us today, hired away some of our top cancer researchers and other  scientists, right? We have China, a much larger country. It's built over the  last 5 years 100 science-only universities.       “The nation  that leads in innovation and science will lead the world economically and  militarily. The notion that we can unilaterally retreat in terms of investments  and the development of future generation of scientists -- now, the gentleman  and I agreed in committee that when we have nonnative-born students here who  are foreigners but who are in school here who get terminal degrees, we should  invite them to stay. If we follow through with his cuts at the National Science  Foundation, what we're saying to American-born students is, if you're pursuing  terminal degrees in the hard sciences, that somehow we're going to cut the legs  from up under you.    “I think this works at cross purposes. The idea that  we would retreat in any respect, in terms of scientific research, should be  rejected by this House if what we're trying to do is to ensure America's global  leadership.    “Now, if this is a math exercise, we should just  zero out the National Science Foundation. If we're just trying to save money,  then let's zero it out. If we're trying to lead the world, as we have, in  science, then we have to make these investments. We should even do more.    “I thank the chairman for where he set the bar, and  I hope that the House, on a bipartisan basis, rejects this notion that we  should cede to our economic competitors scientific superiority for our children  and grandchildren and their generations that will follow.  I yield back the balance of my time.”


House Commerce, Justice, Science  Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA):

“I rise in opposition. I want to thank the gentleman  from Arizona. He's a good Member and very consistent in trying to cut, but I  rise in opposition to this amendment, which would reduce NSF funding by $1.2  billion from the levels provided in the bill.    “This amendment challenges broad, long-standing,  bipartisan agreement on the needs to prioritize Federal investments in basic  research, math and science and physics and chemistry and biology in order that  America can be number one. This agreement is based on a strong and unambiguous  link between investments in research and development and growth and employment  and productivity and GDP. This link has been documented repeatedly by expert  researchers, economists, and analysts working in administrations and  congressional majorities in both parties, as well as private and nonprofit  entities.    “The link is also well-known and understood  internationally, where major foreign competitors, including the European Union,  China, and South Korea are investing strongly, are investing much higher, at a  much higher level than we are, at a much higher level than we are in research,  in the hopes of producing or attracting high-value economic activity. We have  already lost a good deal of competitive advantage that we previously held over  those countries, and if we fail to keep pace with them in research and  development, our situation will only worsen.    “Unfortunately, this amendment would contribute to  precisely that scenario by not only eliminating any potential growth in NSF  basic research next year, but actually reducing basic research expenditures by  nearly $1 billion.    “As a father of five kids, my wife and I, we have 16  grandkids. I want the 21st century to be the American century and not the  Chinese century.       “I urge  strongly, I urge a ‘no’ vote for this amendment. I yield back the balance of my  time.”

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