Congress, we have a problem

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Just a few months ago we marked up and passed out of the House a bipartisan NASA authorization. That bill was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, voice voted out of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and then passed by the full House in a similar fashion.

Today, my committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee, is marking up H.R. 2039 — a NASA reauthorization act that the Democrats on the committee did not even know existed until late last Friday. Needless to say, there was no bipartisan negotiating. After we saw the bill, we understood why. 

In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people.

Of course, NASA’s earth science program is much, much more than just climate science. The research is used by the Department of Defense to help keep our troops safe. It is used to improve electric and gas utility load forecasts and to document the variability of water available for agricultural use. It helps us understand the implications of thinning ice cover in the Arctic. It helps us predict floods, droughts and hurricanes. And it helps us track wildfires and volcanic ash. Basically, NASA’s earth science program provides critical measurements and research on planet Earth as a system and how it is changing over time.

It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet.

NASA is and should remain a multi-mission agency if it is to meet the nation’s needs, with a balanced portfolio of programs in space and earth science, aeronautics and human space flight and exploration. 

It is clear that NASA is a critical part of the nation’s research and development enterprise, an invaluable source of inspiration for our young people, and a worldwide symbol of American technological prowess and good will. We need NASA to succeed.

Unfortunately, the bill we will be marking up today will not help NASA to succeed. It has been made captive to ideological fervor at the expense of thoughtful compromise.

I hope that we can go back to the drawing table and come up with a good bipartisan NASA bill — something that has long been a hallmark of this committee and Congress — that we can consider with pride.

Johnson has represented Texas’s 30th Congressional District since 1993. She is ranking member on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and sits on the Transportation Committee.