Four GOP lawmakers reject bills to promote women in science

The House easily passed two seemingly noncontroversial bills on Tuesday to encourage recruiting women for science careers.

But four male conservative Republicans broke ranks with all other lawmakers who showed up to vote.

The first of the two measures, which would authorize the National Science Foundation to use its entrepreneurial programs to recruit women, passed 383-4. The other bill, passed 380-3, would require NASA to develop a plan for facilitating mentorship programs between established scientists and female K-12 students interested in science fields.


No one spoke in opposition to either bill during House floor debate.

Yet Republican Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (Mich.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertFocus on Perry could mean more subpoenas, challenges for Jan. 6 panel Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 House Ethics panel dismisses security screening fine issued to GOP lawmaker MORE (Texas) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) voted against both bills. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) supported the science mentorship legislation but opposed the other measure.

Gohmert addressed his vote during a House floor speech later Tuesday afternoon, saying he was concerned the legislation he described as “incredibly well intended” might shortchange some people.

“We want to take time from our $19 trillion in debt to demand that the National Science Foundation discriminate based on gender. There may be some young boy [who] needs encouragement from a tough family situation, but this program is designed to discriminate against that young poverty-stricken boy and to encourage the girl. Forget the boy, encourage the girl,” Gohmert said.

The Texas Republican suggested that forcing the government to prioritize recruiting women could potentially result in a reversed gender gap down the road.

“When we come in and we say, well it’s important that for a while we discriminate, we end up getting behind,” Gohmert said. “And then probably 25 years from now, boys are going to have fallen behind in numbers and we’re going to need to come in and say, ‘You know, actually, when we passed that bill forcing encouragement of girls and not encouraging little boys, we were getting behind the 8-ball. We didn’t see that we were going to be leaving little boys in the ditch. And now we need to start doing programs to encourage little boys.’” 

Representatives for the other three lawmakers did not immediately provide explanations for their votes.

A 2011 Commerce Department report found that women hold less than 25 percent of jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce, even though they make up nearly half of the American workforce.

Both bills were part of a package of legislation on the House floor this week to commemorate Women’s History Month. The House also passed a bill without any opposition on Tuesday to reinstate burial rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery.

The House has had a relatively light floor schedule in recent weeks due to the lack of major legislative deadlines and the impasse over passing a 2017 budget resolution. Out of the three days the House is in session this week, two have been devoted to considering noncontroversial legislation. Earlier this month, the House spent an afternoon renaming federal buildings.