Rep. Brad Miller, familiar to Daily Kos readers from his frequent posting here, will play a critical role in a new subcommittee formed by House Democrats to investigate allegations of GOP science and policy abuse. The new Science Oversight and Investigation (I & O) subcommittee will report to the House Committee on Science and Technology. The parent committee has jurisdiction over non-defense Federal spending. That includes agencies such as NASA, DoE, EPA, NOAA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, just to name a few.
Miller, who won reelection in a 2 to 1 landslide last November against Republican challenger Vernon Robinson, had these exciting details to announce:
DarkSyde: Do you know who will chair the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee for the Science and Technology Committee?
Congressman Brad Miller: Yes, I will chair that subcommittee.
I am just beginning my third term in the House, but I have the seniority on the Science and Technology Committee to chair a subcommittee. The Science and Technology Committee didn’t do much under the Republican majority. Some Republicans only use the word "science" when it is preceded by "junk," so Republicans weren’t much interested in having an active, productive Science and Technology Committee. Also, Sherry Boehlert, the chairman of the committee under the Republicans, was the last Rockefeller Republican on the planet (the Club for Growth tried to "primary" him a couple of times), so he didn’t have the complete confidence of the DeLay crowd. In short, a lot of Democrats gave up seats on the Science and Technology Committee to serve on more active committees, or only served on the committee as a third committee assignment, which meant they didn’t get any seniority.
I plan to let my mother think I got the job through a rigorous competition based entirely on merit, however.
DS: What will be on the agenda of the I & O subcommittee?
Rep. Miller: The Committee on Science and Technology will be a lot more active under the Democrats, and there will be plenty for the I & O Subcommittee to say grace over.
You certainly can count on our looking at scientific integrity issues under the Bush Administration. There have been lots of reports in the press of manipulating science to support policy, rigging advisory panels, and suppressing research by federal employees or with federal dollars. I’ve written about that here before, and you interviewed me a year ago about the manipulation of science. In addition to the published reports, the committee staff has been collecting accounts, some confidential, of interference by political appointees. I hope that more folks will come forward now that Democrats are in the majority and we show we’re really going to pursue the issue.
We can also look at reports of "waste, fraud and abuse" by executive agencies. Plain old stupidity fits into that category.
The Science and Technology Committee has jurisdiction over issues of the commercial application of research and technology, which gives us a say in competitiveness issues. We can, for instance, look into what it would take for corporations to keep manufacturing or other operations in the United States. Are government policies, whether intentionally or inadvertently, actually encouraging employers to export jobs?
And we can look into technology and standards issues. I recall that one or two folks here have questioned the reliability of voting machine technology, for instance. We could hold hearings on that.
DS: Will the subcommittee have the power to subpoena, and is it likely to be used?
Rep Miller: Yes, the subcommittee can vote to issue subpoenas, which would then need the signature of the committee chair, Bart Gordon. And yes, it’s pretty likely that the subcommittee will issue at least some subpoenas to get the documents and the testimony we need to do our job, but not as a first resort.
I’ve written here that Republicans are already claiming that Democrats in Congress will swamp the Bush Administration with subpoenas inspired by petty partisanship. The truth is that we’ll likely use subpoenas only after we’ve tried to get the information we need by simple request.
An example of how we might start would be my polite little letter to Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education, about the decision not to release a couple of research reports that did not fit Republican dogma. Supposedly the Department did not release the reports because the research was flawed. I asked for the memos that the Department relied on in deciding the reports did not meet the Department’s standards for scholarship. I got a letter back from an assistant secretary saying that the information I requested were "internal, deliberative documents" that they did not have to disclose.
If I ask nicely and they say no, that’s when we may consider issuing a subpoena. But I’ll feel real bad about it.
DS: How can citizens help the new I & O Subcommittee?
Rep. Miller: We’re still asking folks to come forward if they know of cases of the political manipulation of science, or of any "fraud, waste and abuse" in government research. You can e-mail my office at NC13.ScienceIntegrity[at]mail.house.gov, or you can send us an anonymous tip at this link.