Poorly Legislated Science is a Politicking Timebomb!

With elections just around the corner pretty much every information medium is saturated with political goings-on. For instance, this picture has been spotted on Reddit:

This picture isn’t wrong, but it feels too in tune with my own desires to be taken at just face value, so I decided to look into the entire House Science Committee. I’ll start with Republicans, and go through them in the order in which they’re currently listed on the House Science Committee website. I will make each name a link to their Wikipedia page as I go, but at the end of each section I will link to the various corroborating sources for my stated facts. Settle in, because this is one’s a doozy.

Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) – He’s 89, is a college graduate with a law degree, was a pilot in the US Navy during World War II, he has strong ties to the oil and gas industries, and he votes along party lines 95% of the time. Based on his education, training, and various documented occupations, I can’t see why he should be on this committee, let alone the chairman of it.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Ralph Hall”

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) – He is 69, has a degree in Political Science and a JD, and as an adult appears to have never had a job outside of politics, as he joined the Wisconsin State Assembly the same year he graduated from law school. He votes along party lines 88% of the time. I see no history of education or training in any scientific discipline.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Jim Sensenbrenner”

Lamar Smith (R-TX) – He is 64, attended three colleges including Yale, he’s been a journalist and a lawyer, and he made a name for himself on the Internet by sponsoring things like the DMCA, SOPA, and PCIP. He votes along party lines 96% of the time. Technology enthusiasts aren’t fond of him, and his education and training don’t seem to have any focus at all in any scientific discipline.

Official House Biography (Not Google Cached, as that version appears to be broken)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Lamar Smith”

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) – He is 65, has a BA in history and a Master’s Degree in American Studies from USC. He has been in politics for a very long time, serving as Assistant Press Secretary to Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1976. In the 70s he had a side gig in a folk music band. His training speaks very little to science, however he did sponsor HR 3752, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, which paved the way for companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. He votes along party lines 88% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Dana Rohrabacher”

 

Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) – He is 86, has a BS in theology, biology, a minor in chemistry, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in physiology. He taught within his Master’s discipline while earning his Ph.D. He lectured from 1952 to 1954, and was an assistant professor at Howard University College of Medicine from 1954 to 1956. He didn’t enter politics until 1980. According to his House biography, he served as a scientist to the US military and NASA for more than 20 years, and he has 20 patents to his name, 19 of which are owned by the US government. We are at last given some reason to think that a scientist found their way into politics. He votes along party lines 90% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Roscoe Bartlett”

 

Frank Lucas (R-OK) – He is 52, holds a degree in agricultural economics, and has been a member of Congress since 1994. He is a farmer’s best friend. He votes along party lines 93% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Congressman Frank Lucas” (This search is specific because there was a fairly famous American heroin dealer by the same name)

 

Judy Biggert (R-IL) – She is 75, the daughter of a former CEO of Walgreen Co., holds a BA in international relations and a JD, and votes along parts lines 89% of the time. Scientific qualifications are not apparent.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Judy Biggert”

 

Todd Akin (R-MO) – He is 65, holds a BS in engineering, served in the US Army with the Army Combat Engineers, and then worked for IBM as a salesman for large computer systems. He is not at all shy about his Master of Divinity degree, and that after obtaining it he decided to not join a church, but rather to spread the word through public service. He lives by a socially conservative interpretation of the bible, making him not well loved by the gay community or any free-thought society. Clearly he understands some level of the scientific process, but his interpretation of that knowledge is colored by his worldview in a way that implies more limits that it does frontier-conquering. He votes along party lines 96% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Todd Akin”

 

Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) – He is 62, holds a bachelor degree in Business Administration in Accounting, and references the Science Committee in once sentence on his House biography page. He has been lauded as the most conservative member of Congress, and doesn’t appear to have substantively added to the Committee’s agenda. He votes along party lines 95% of the time.

Official House Biography (Not Google Cached, because his website is laid out in a funny way)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Randy Neugebauer”

 

Michael McCaul (R-TX) – He is 50, holds a BA in business and history, a JD, and is a graduate of the Senior Executive Fellows Program of the School of Government at Harvard. His primary focus seems to be national security, but he has advised on cyber security to the Obama Administration, and actively tries to keep all of the aerospace industry employees in Texas in their jobs. He votes along party lines 96% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Michael McCaul”

 

Paul Broun (R-GA) – He is 66, holds a BS in chemistry, became an MD in 1971, and practiced medicine until he was elected to Congress in 2007. He obviously understands medical science, however he’s prone to make outrageous, knee-jerk, inflammatory comparisons, for instance comparing then President-elect Obama to Adolf Hitler. He votes along party lines 88% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Paul Broun”

 

Sandy Adams (R-FL) – She is 55, holds a BA in Criminal Justice Administration, served in the US Air Force, and was a deputy sheriff and investigator in Florida. She has experienced hardship and tragedy in her life, but nothing that would lead me to think she’s qualified to legislate on science issues. She votes along party lines 94% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Sandy Adams”

 

Ben Quayle (R-AZ) – He is 35, holds a BA in history from Duke and a JD from Vanderbuilt, and was a small business owner and a lawyer in real estate and financial markets before he was in politics. His House biography mentions his membership on the Science Committee, but makes no mention of his having contributed to it. He votes along party lines 93% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Ben Quayle”

 

Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) – He is 49, has a BA in political science and a JD, and is apparently another empty shirt on the committee, as his biography makes no mention of contribution. He votes along party lines 96% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Chuck Fleischmann”

 

Scott Rigell (R-VA) – He is 52, holds a Bachelor and a Masters of Business Administration, served with the US Marines for six years ending with an honorable discharge, and if he wants to continue getting elected all he has to do is whatever the military wants him to, as he represents the largest military district in the country. None of these things scream “knowledgeable on science” to me. He votes along party lines 92% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Scott Rigell”

 

Steven Palazzo (R-MS) – He is 42, holds a BA and Master’s in Accounting, served in the US Marines during the Persian Gulf, and started a CPA firm with his wife. He votes along party lines 95% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Steven Palazzo”

 

Mo Brooks (R-AL) – He is 58, double majored in political science and economics at Duke, graduated from law school in 1978, and practiced law for many years. He only entered the national political scene in 2010. He votes along party lines 94% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Mo Brooks”

 

Andy Harris (R-MD) – He is 55, earned both his BS in biology and MD at The Johns Hopkins University, before politics he was in the US Naval Medical Corps, was on active duty during Desert Storm, and he’s been an anesthesiologist, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, and Chief of Obstetric Anesthesiology, all at JHU. Clearly this is the man to go to for your anesthetization needs. It seems like he can largely to be trusted on the medical science side of things. He votes along party lines 89% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Andy Harris”

 

Randy Hultgren (R-IL) – He is 46, graduated from Bethel College and earned his JD at Chicago-Kent, he’s been a lawyer and a business owner, but doesn’t seem to have any serious science credibility. He is, however, receiving the Champion of Science Award at Fermilab. This may just serve to balance out his being identified as one of the “dirtiest congressmen” by the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, naming him and 193 others as supporters of air-polluting industries this last September. He votes along party lines 93% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Randy Hultgren”

 

Chip Cravaack (R-MN) – He is 52, holds a BS from the US Naval Academy and a Masters in Education, and flew a helicopters in the Navy for 24 years, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. He was a pilot for Northwest Airlines from 1990 to 2007. He rode from retirement to congressman with no previous political experience, inspired by the Tea Party movement in Minnesota. He votes along party lines 92% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Chip Cravaack”

 

Larry Bucshon (R-IN) – He is 50, holds an MD, and was a cardiothoracic surgeon and in the Naval Reserves. We have another representative who was deep in the medical field before their career in politics, so again, we seem to have that angle covered-ish. He votes along party lines 96% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Larry Bucshon”

 

Dan Benishek (R-MI) – He is 60, holds a BS in biology, and earned his MD to become a surgeon. Before he was elected to Congress he had never been elected to, or even run for, and public office. Yet another committee member who came up in medical science. He votes along party lines 90% of the time.

Official House Biography (Google Cached)

Voting Record as maintained by The Washington Post

Further Biographical Information from Project Vote Smart

Google News Search for “Dan Benishek”

 

So there we have it: The Republican members of the House Science Committee. Overall I am more than a little dismayed that this side of the committee is so seemingly unqualified to legislate on the sectors of science they are charged with. Qualified to legislate, sure, and some of them are qualified to perform surgery or design a temporary structure, but the core values of science are severely, sadly, worryingly, under represented.

 

Up next we’ll get into the (much less populous) Democrats on the House Science Committee. We’ll wrap up this series of articles with a look at what the committee is actually expected to do, what powers they have, and how they’re handling both.

 

Fingers crossed that this rough start is followed by a stronger second period, and that we end with a surprising synergy that shows the committee fulfilling or, even better, exceeding expectations. Fingers and toes. And swords, because swords are awesome.

 

Inigo Montoya from the movie “The Princess Bride”

 

 

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