Who knew?

ImageCongress debated H.R. 4660, “Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes” on May 28 and 29, 2014. Congress considered 87 amendments. An amendment offered by Rep. Smith (R-TX) was puzzling–why reduce and then increase funding?

An amendment, offered by Mr. Smith (TX), to reduce and then increase the funding for research and related activities, National Science Foundation, by $15,350,000. The Smith (TX) amendment was agreed to by a recorded vote:208-201 

The vote, mostly along party lines, was close; Rep. Reed, surprisingly bucking his party, voted NO. Rep Amash (R-MI), who explains his votes, cleared up the confusion:

I voted yes on the Smith of TX Amendment to #HR4660, which transfers $15.35 million within the National Science Foundation (NSF) account from social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) research to mathematics and physical sciences (MPS) research. Forced to choose between these two types of NSF research, I believe MPS research to be more objective. Reducing funding for SBE research by $15.35 million leaves its funding at the FY 2014 level. The amendment was agreed to 208-201.

Congress actually voted to transfer money from social science and economics research to physical science and math. One wonders how many members understood the purpose of the amendment, why most Republicans would favor it and most Democrats oppose it, and why Rep. Reed, thought to be supportive of physical science and math, would join most Democrats in opposing it?

What makes Rep. Amash believe “MPS research to be more objective?” Is that an important distinction, if true? Having decided to fund NSF research, is Congress right in specifying how much should be spent in each area of interest or might that better be left to the NSF to decide?

© William Hungerford – June 2014



About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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12 Responses to Who knew?

  1. pystew says:

    H.R. 4660 is a very complex bill–the representatives were expected to be knowledgeable on diverse topics as they voted and 87 very different amendments over two days. A small sample of the topics in the funding bill includes: immigration, greenhouse gases, fair housing, Internet domain name system, climate research, compelling a journalist to testify about information or sources in certain situations, regulating the quality of tea, Fair Labor Act and many more. See New NY 23rd’s earlier article “Congress makes a law” for more details.

    This reminds me that Rep. Reed’s District Director, Joe Sempolinski, when asked about the Congressman’s stand on the storage of LPG in the old Salt Mines in Schuyler County reminded us that “Congressman Reed has a law degree; he is not a scientist.”

    We don’t expect our representative to be an expert in all topics. We do expect them to have the resources to make intelligent decisions, and able to explain their votes.


  2. whungerford says:

    I wondered about the Salmon amendment; I thought maybe “tea” was a typo, but no the prohibition on a certain research project was for real. One must wonder why Mr. Salmon (R-AZ) singled this study out and why a majority agreed. Rep. Reed also makes a practice of mocking studies the value of which he fails to appreciate. Here is the text of the Salmon amendment with a link to the abstract for the study.

    “An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for examination of climate effects on tea quality and socioeconomic responses under award number 1313775-CNH.”



  3. BOB McGILL says:

    So, your answer to “WHO KNEW is WHO KNOWS ” 🙂


  4. whungerford says:

    Here is what Rep. Amash had to say about the Thompson amendment to increase funding for background checks. Rep. Amash voted NO; Rep. Reed voted in favor.

    I voted no on the Thompson of CA Amendment to #HR4660, which transfers $19.5 million from various accounts in the bill to a grant program related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

    The grant program provides funding to state governments to increase their submissions to the NICS database (e.g., mental health and arrest records). The sponsor of the amendment cites statistics on the number of arrest warrants that have not been entered into NICS by certain states, but my primary concern is on the opposite end. An arrest warrant is not a conviction and is not sufficient to deny a law-abiding citizen the right to purchase or possess a firearm.

    In a recent study from the Government Accountability Office, three out of six states in the study had trouble matching arrest records to their corresponding dispositions (i.e., final outcomes). A person arrested but whose charge is later dismissed should not be prevented from purchasing a weapon, and there are too many problems with NICS right now to make it a reliable check for past criminal behavior or mental fitness.

    Furthermore, the underlying bill already funds these NICS grants at $3.5 million above the president’s budget request.

    The amendment was agreed to 260-145-1.


  5. BOB McGILL says:

    You fail to realize that one word can change the meaning of a bill ! Example ; To qualify you have to be single and have kids.—- To qualify you have to be single or have kids.
    Tom would have every right to reject a bill because “and” was used instead of “or “.
    It is that simple, when you understand this you would not question Tom’s every move !!!!!!!!!


  6. whungerford says:

    No Bob, it’s not that Reed’s every move is questioned, but rather that every move is questionable.


  7. BOB McGILL says:

    DELETING MY COMMENTS AGAIN ! If you can’t win an arguement just delete it.


  8. WNYPlanner says:

    The truth is that “Social Science” and “Economic Research” do not use mathematical methods to these politicians and that they really aren’t science…this means that apparently, the two disciplines are “subjective” and are not based in real science and math. This is known as the ignoramus spectrum disorder in my professional circle of social and economic scientists. This conclusion is derived by analysis of reliable data using statistical methods based on N= several observations!


  9. whungerford says:

    More from Rep. Amash:

    “I voted no on the Blackburn of TN Amendment 15 to #HR4660, which prohibits funding in the bill from going toward operations, renovation, or construction at the Thomson Correctional Center near Thomson, Illinois. The U.S. government purchased the facility in 2012 for $165 million to help address prison overcrowding. Although it currently stands empty, the Obama administration has begun working to open the facility. The amendment’s sponsor is concerned that the supermax facility may be used to house Guantanamo detainees at some point in the future, but the Obama administration has stated that it has no further plans to do so (it previously floated this possibility in 2009), and regardless, there are other laws and restrictions that currently prevent transferring any Guantanamo detainees to the United States. It makes little sense to prohibit the use of a facility U.S. taxpayers have paid so much for. The amendment was not agreed to 198-208.”

    Tom Reed to his credit joined Rep. Amash, 22 other Republicans, and all but two Democrats to defeat this amendment.


  10. whungerford says:

    What’s astonishing is that anyone would think that mathematics, which can be very abstract, is objective, and economics, which makes good use of mathematics, isn’t. In my opinion, Congress shouldn’t meddle in the question of what science deserves funding as they are mostly unqualified to decide.


  11. pystew says:

    According to the article, “How to comment on an article”-we do not accept insults and your statement was deemed an insult. You can resubmit your comment without the insult if you wish.


  12. whungerford says:

    More from Rep. Amash:

    “I voted no on the Holding of NC Amendment to #HR4660, which prohibits funding in the bill from being used ‘to transfer or temporarily assign employees to the Office of the Pardon Attorney for the purpose of screening clemency applications.’ Art. II, Sec. 2, of the Constitution states that ‘The President . . . shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.’ The amendment was agreed to 219-189.”

    Rep. Reed voted AYE. Here Rep. Amash bases his vote on the Constitution while Rep. Reed votes to hinder President Obama from exercising his Constitutional duty.



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