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Public Statements

National Science Foundation Authorization Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 02, 2007)

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Just a couple of points and then I will yield.

I agree with the gentleman that in some respects, perhaps, this body should not be engaged in micromanaging various aspects of the Federal Government where we do not have expertise.

Earlier today, and in just the past week, we had a complete debate on that subject of whether this body, all 535 Members, were in appropriate position to micromanage the war, and I think some of us thought that we were not in the best position but that we should have, just as you are suggesting here, the trained professionals, the experts, the people on the field who are engaged in this activity on a daily basis make those decisions.

So I would agree with the gentleman there. And if we were to have consistency, then we should not be engaged in that matter and we should not be engaged in this case.

Let me make my second point and that is this: It is not incumbent upon the gentleman from California to be the expert in these areas that he is raising questions about. The underlying bill is not the gentleman from California's bill. It is the majority party's bill. It is your bill. You are coming to the floor making the case, or I should say the other side of the aisle, as I am speaking to the Chair, making the case that we should be spending all this money on these programs. So it is incumbent upon the offerer of the underlying legislation to make the case why we should be doing it and have the information why each one of these is justified so that when either the gentleman from California or Georgia raises the legitimate question, the same question that we are going to get when we go back to our constituents and are asked why did we vote on it, he should be making the justification for that.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I, too, echo the words of my colleagues who are in support of the overall funding of the National Science Foundation, and I offer this amendment to H.R. 1867, which I hope will provide incentives for the NSF to identify waste and any abuse within the Agency, but also, very importantly, to help identify those programs which are either underperforming or simply just not working.

I believe this legislation will help be a model of fiscal responsibility. It is similar to the legislation we just heard from in two respects. H.R. 1867 authorizes the National Science Foundation to increase their spending, which goes to the point of the gentleman from Michigan was saying before, by 7 percent, and again in 2009 and 2010.

The point we must make here, though, is inflation has remained constant during this same time period at around 3 percent. So when we purport to be so concerned about the taxpayers' dollars and the debt we are leaving our children, which I just heard from the gentleman from the other side of the aisle previously, how can we justify programmic increases for research that are actually more than twice the rate of inflation?

As I referenced before, when I go back to my constituents back at home in town hall meetings and the like, they are not seeing 7 percent increases in their wages and salaries. They are not seeing a doubling of their incomes and their family household incomes. They may be seeing that as far as their expenses are concerned. They are seeing all other sorts of increases in spending, such as gasoline prices and the like that they have to put up with, but they are not seeing the increases in income and expenditures that we are seeing in this bill.

I will comment on one comment that the gentleman from the other side of the aisle made before as far as being consistent. I think we heard the American public on this past election day. The American public is concerned about overspending by Congress. They want us to prioritize where our dollars go. They want to make sure that we are spending every dime efficiently and appropriately.

I have yet, however, to hear one suggestion from the other side of the aisle, either here on the floor or on the Budget Committee, on which I serve with some of the gentleman on the other side of the aisle, as to where we with can make some of those cuts. Instead, what we are seeing is a continual increase in spending.

Another point to make as well: Time after time our constituents come to our office quoting the discrepancy between authorization levels and appropriation levels. It is my hope that instead of having to disappoint them once again, that we set realistic authorization levels that may actually be realistic to the appropriation levels that come down the line. Let's be realistic, both on what we can do for our constituents and also what the appropriators may be doing with this bill later on.

I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment, because it is our duty simply as stewards of our constituents' money, the taxpayers' dollars, as we step forward to make an honest assessment of what we can afford and should afford the American taxpayer.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. Chairman, I believe the other side of the aisle has mischaracterized what this amendment does when they speak of cuts and pullbacks from science and the Foundation. Nothing of the kind is in this amendment. Instead, we will still be increasing spending this year and next year and next year and next year up to $20.87 billion for these appropriated expenditures on the National Science Foundation, instead of $20.97 billion.

I am very much concerned about education and science and our research. Let me just add, I am also concerned about the education of our youth. My constituents are just as concerned about educating their kids and being able to afford to send their kids to college and how do they pay for that? My constituents are concerned about the health care and the medical expenditures for their families and how do they pay for that? My constituents are concerned about the housing for their family and loved ones, and how do they pay for that?

They are not seeing a 7 percent increase in their wages and salaries, even though each and every one of those things are just as vitally important to them as it is that we spend money on overall Science Foundation research in the United States of America.

This amendment would not cut spending by a dime. This amendment would simply limit the growth rate from 7 percent down to 6.5 percent. The last amendment was seeing it go down from 7 percent to 6 percent. This would be even less, from 7 to 6.5 percent. You would still be seeing a growth year after year after year. The NSF would still be allowed to expend their dollars on those critical areas that my friend from Georgia and the Members on the other side of the aisle are so concerned about for the betterment of this country.

I would implore the Members on the other side of the aisle that if we are to be consistent when we talk about the overall spending and revenue side for this Congress, that we stop doing what the other side of the aisle has done. They have only looked at the revenue side of the equation so far in the last 3 or 4 months, giving us the largest tax increase in America's history on the other hand, but have done absolutely nothing for the American public when it says how are we going to set priorities for the American public and what we spend money on, and how are we going to try to rein in spending for the American public as well. I think we need to do it on both sides.

Finally, regarding what the gentleman from Michigan said, I agree with him. If we can do it across the board for all of the other programs, I am right in line with him, and I support him on that endeavor as well. Let's start here, and I will be the first one to cosponsor any of his amendments to do likewise, decreasing the overall increases of spending that this government has.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, just beginning where the last comment on the last bill ended up, I appreciate the gentleman pointing out that this side did support a doubling of the NSF, and I was probably one of those who was there to support the increase; so no one, I think, can take the position that we are not uniformly as a body or as a party opposed to the general notion of increasing, making significant increases to applied research or general research, I should say, by the NSF.

What we can ask, though, is after the last election, has the American voter spoken with regard to the overall growth in Federal spending in all areas, whether it is in science and health care, whether it is in the war, for veterans or other areas; should we not look at each one individually and decide some should go up, some should remain the same, and some should go up at a slightly different way? That is what we are suggesting in the last amendment, simply that they should go up at a slightly different arc than they are in the underlying bill, 6.5 percent instead of 7 percent.

In the amendment before us right now, we look to see what is the underlying mission of the NSF. If we look at their mission statement, we see it is: ``To promote the progress of science, advance the national health, prosperity and welfare and secure the national defense.''

But during these tough fiscal times, both at the Federal level and at the family level, as I pointed out before, Congress must exercise good stewardship over every penny of taxpayers' dollars. This includes helping the NSF to focus on its priority projects.

Just as the gentleman from Georgia indicated, he has been visited by a number of people from various groups dealing with health issues, so have I; people with serious health issues like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes. They come and ask what are we doing and how are we prioritizing for their concerns within the NSF.

The amendment before you simply says can we find more than a quarter million dollars to fund research on such programs as reproductive aging symptoms of midlife Bangladeshi immigrants, but not more funding for research projects which might bring progress and eventually cures for some of the serious illnesses we have already heard about on the floor?

In addition, how can we justify research like the diet and social stratification of ancient cultures when here at home current medical research is so desperately needed?

Now, I understand that the point has been already made that we do not specifically itemize in the authorization bills each one of these specific programs, but these are, as the gentleman knows, programs which have already been authorized in the past and are continuing under the law right now into 2007 and 2008.

So doesn't it behoove us here in Congress to make a statement, to make a stand and say that at least in several of these areas we can make a position that our limited dollars should not be going to those areas, but instead we would make the position that they should be going for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and cancer research and some other areas that we have previously spoken about?

So I encourage my colleagues, do not only exercise good stewardship over the taxpayers' dollars, but in essence to also ensure that worthy projects receive the funding they deserve within that noble mission that I set forth at the beginning, ``To promote the progress of science, advance the national health, prosperity and welfare and secure the national defense.''

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, again, I thank the gentleman for yielding. The gentleman is a doctor and I am not going to ask him for his medical expertise because, as you say, that is not our role here to delve into these things but to simply raise the questions.

I will tell you this, that when I come back to my constituents and they tell me about their health concerns, whether it is menopause or cancer or otherwise, their first concern is how are they going to address their own health needs, how are they going to address their health care costs and what are we doing here about it. Their second question is what research are we doing here at home for these areas.

The study that you reference, reproductive aging and symptoms experienced at midlife among Bangladeshi immigrants, sedentees, and white London neighbors does not, of course, as the gentleman knows, look to those issues here at home, but rather elsewhere.

My constituents will raise the question, is that the first priority or should that be the first priority of the NSF. I am not an expert, I am not a doctor like the gentleman, so I cannot suggest that that is the most important one, but my constituents will certainly raise that question for me, and my constituents will certainly be consistent, as the gentleman from Georgia says, and that we should make sure that those dollars are spent here on their own health concerns first.

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