Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Congress isn’t exactly the most popular government institution around, and fueling the flames of discontent is its record slow pace in passing legislation. Bills can take a notoriously long time to become law, and Americans are understandably frustrated by arcane procedural moves that delay the passage of bills which deal with important contemporary issues.
With attention currently focused entirely on budgetary issues, Congress is setting aside a variety of other important legislative issues. While the budget certainly matters, the fight over funding the federal government is grinding everything else to a halt because of the un-compromising stance of religious right politicians in the House of Representatives. Without a normal compromise budget in place, legislation must be passed every few months to continue funding the government, a process which is redirecting Congressional energies almost exclusively to finances. The problem with this way of funding the government is that the issues detailed below are being pushed aside while Congress tries to come to a compromise over the budget.
1) Not getting the attention it needs is the effort to restore funding to the scientific and medical research institutions which faced harsh cutbacks from the sequester. The recent spending cuts have impacted federal agencies and government workers, as well as independent researchers, in many different scientific fields and in locations across the nation. The National Institutes of Health, which is the “world’s largest supporter of biomedical research,” saw sequestration cut their budget for this year by close to $1.6 billion dollars, while the National Science Foundation, which funds about a fifth of all federally funded basic research at American colleges and universities, anticipated it would award about 1,000 fewer research grants this year because of sequestration. While some in Congress have called for these cuts to be repealed, nothing much has been accomplished. The result of this inaction is that nearly one-fifth of scientists are considering going overseas to continue their research because of the poor funding climate in America.
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Roy Speckhardt is the executive director of the American Humanist Association