Meet the Men Vying to Lead the House Science Committee — two lawyers and an ex-speechwriter, all climate change deniers!

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Ethics, Events, Policy, Science

According to a ScienceInsider analysis, a quarter of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology will either be retiring or lost their bid for reelection this election cycle. Additionally, Representitive Ralph M. Hall (R-TX) must step down as chairman of the committee due to term-limits established by current House rules. Representitive Lamar Smith (R-TX) is currently considered the favorite to replace Representative Hall, which can be considered the lesser of three evils, because, as you’ll read below, the other two Members vying for the leadership position are notably much more anti-science and are both staunch climate change deniers.

“I intend to be a chairman who exemplifies the Republican philosophy that science, technology and innovation offer a pathway to a better, more prosperous future, and solve problems that bureaucracy and rampant government spending cannot,” states Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in his press release announcing his candidacy for chairman. Representative Rohrabacher has served on the House Committee of Science and Technology since he first started in Congress in 1988, serving as the chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment on separate occasions. His website boasts that he is a champion of  “Cheap Access to Space” aka space as a tourist activity, and also that he eliminated $1 billion in “wasteful spending” from the Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1996. Even more disturbing, he has a entire page of his website devoted to anti-climate change rhetoric and he at one point asked, “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? … Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?” Representative Rohrabacher has a master’s degree in American Studies and served as Special Assistant to President Reagan.

Frank James (Jim) Sensenbrenner, Jr. has served in Congress since 1979 and currently represents Wisconsin’s 5th and most wealthy congressional district. Representative Sensenbrenner has a law degree and a batchelors in Political Science but served as the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology from 1997-2001 and is currently the Vice Chairman. He states in the press release for his formal announcement of candidacy, “Additionally, it’s more important than ever that the House exercises our constitutional oversight role. The Obama Administration has shown its willingness to manipulate science for political ends and threaten our domestic energy production and our economy in the process. I have a record of effective oversight, and I will continue to keep the Administration accountable for their use of science in crafting regulations and policies.” Like Rohrabacher, Sensenbrenner also does not believe in climate change. Speaking at the Heartland Institute’s Conference on Climate Change, he states, “CO2 is a natural gas. Does this mean that all of us need to put catalytic converters on all our noses? The fact that people think CO2 is a pollutant … basically goes into propaganda.”

Lamar Smith has served as the Representative of Texas’s 21st congressional district since 1947. Like Representative Sensenbrenner, Smith is a lawyer by education. During his long tenure in Congress, Representative Smith has supported anti-abortion legislation and has stated that marijuana has no accepted medical use. Unlike his other two contenders, Representative Smith’s views on climate change seem to be somewhat less acidic. He states on his website, “Like many Americans, I am concerned about the environment. The Earth has undergone tremendous change in the past and is experiencing similar change now. Climate change has the potential to impact agriculture, ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns, and human health.” Don’t get too excited though, Representative Smith has also stated that, “We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data.” A bit more promising, at this year’s AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy Representative Smith states, “There are many instances where we could privatize certain industries. There are many instances where government slows down innovation. [But] in the case of research and development, I don’t know how else it’s going to get done in a capitalistic society, a free market system that I support, because if you don’t have the possibility of profits, you’re not going to necessarily have the private sector incentive or involvement. So I think there are some areas, particularly in research and development, where the government plays a very, very prominent role.”

 ScienceInsider states, “The science committee is generally considered a second-tier assignment because it has relatively little power. Although its name suggests a grander role, it has little authority over the largest federal funder of research—the National Institutes of Health. It does oversee policy for NASA, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and other science agencies. But as a so-called authorizing committee, it has a limited influence over spending by these agencies, which is set by Congress’s appropriating committees. It does, however, play a significant role in shaping broad policy and conducting oversight investigations into agency activities.”

  1. David Ashlin says:

    “I intend to be a chairman who exemplifies the Republican philosophy that science, technology and innovation offer a pathway to a better, more prosperous future, and solve problems that bureaucracy and rampant government spending cannot,”

    Translation: I intend to uphold the Republican philosophy that any application of science and technology that generates an obscene profit margin is good and sound science backed by evidence. Any scientific data garnered in the exact same fashion that is used as evidence of wreaking havoc on the environment and/or public health in order to implement necessary regulations that impede or erode such profits is to be labeled “job-killing”. Any such science that offends my theocratic voting base is to be labeled “a lie from the pit of Hell.”

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