In my latest Roll Call column, I point out that the Tea Party’s political tactics are threatening our nation’s scientific enterprise:
The government shutdown and threatened financial default may seem so yesterday, given the Obamacare rollout mess. But the tea party’s October call to conservative arms is having a persisting, pernicious effect, even though the media and Wall Street seem to have moved on.
What I have in mind, particularly, is the sequester’s impact on science, the generator of America’s future economic growth.
In the Senate, where a modicum of bipartisanship and sanity still remain, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has assumed the mantle of GOP leadership on innovation. His recent gutsy call for increased federal investments in research comes as his former South Carolina colleague, Jim DeMint, has been pressuring Republicans from his perch atop The Heritage Foundation to focus on taming the federal deficit to the exclusion of almost everything else.
The Heritage drumbeat has considerable traction in the House, where DeMint’s acolytes are inhibiting even the smallest attempts by Republican authorizers on the Science, Space and Technology Committee to address America’s flagging research enterprise.
Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, should take a cue from the other Lamar and challenge the tea party to do battle over federal science spending. He might lose the initial skirmish, but he will come out the ultimate victor because the past is on his side.