Diane Feinstein’s Views of NSF Political Science Funding

by John Sides on May 17, 2013 · 9 comments

in National Science Foundation

A colleague in California sent a letter to both Senators Feinstein and Boxer and received this from Feinstein:

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to Senate Amendment 65 to the fiscal year 2013 continuing appropriations bill.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

I believe that advanced research in the social and natural sciences is the bedrock of American innovation, and I am proud that California and its excellent universities have been a leader in this field.  I also agree that the National Science Foundation (NSF) plays an integral part in promoting scientific research and supporting science education.

On March 13, 2013, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced an amendment (S. Amdt. 65) to the Senate Continuing Resolution that bans the use of National Science Foundation funding for political science projects.  However, it is important to note that this amendment was subsequently modified to allow for political science funding that supports the nation’s economy or is in the interest of national security.  Senator Coburn’s modified amendment was agreed to by a voice vote and included in the final version of the Continuing Resolution, which passed the Senate on March 20, 2013 by a vote of 73-26.  The President signed the bill into law on March 26, 2013 (Public Law 113-6).

I understand you support federal funding of the Political Science Program through the National Science Foundation (NSF).  As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, please know that I have made careful note of your support for this program, and will keep your comments in mind as I work with my colleagues in the Senate to pass appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2014.

Once again, thank you for writing.  If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841, or visit my website at http://feinstein.senate.gov.  Best regards.


Feinstein doesn’t seem too concerned about the language of the Coburn amendment.  My colleague reports that Boxer’s response was a generic form letter acknowledging the contact but saying nothing specific about the issue of the NSF.  The previous response of Tim Kaine is here, and see also the comments.

{ 9 comments }

William Adler May 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I got this from Sen. Mikulski:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the Coburn amendment (S. Amdt. 65) to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 113-6)). It’s good to hear from you.

I share your concerns about the proposed elimination of funding for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) political science program. As the Chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, I have long supported the funding of scientific research that advances our understanding of political science, including political systems around the world. NSF is one of the major sources of funding for all fields of basic science research. NSF fosters growth, innovation, and knowledge across this country and I am committed to robust funding for all of the agency’s scientific initiatives.

Originally, Senator Coburn’s amendment would have eliminated funding for the NSF political science program. An agreement between the Senator from Oklahoma and myself modified his amendment to allow for the continuation of political science research projects when the Director of NSF certifies that they promote the economic or national security interests of the United States. Furthermore, this provision will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Many of our nation’s leading thinkers, including the late Nobel Prize winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom, rely heavily on NSF grants to conduct research essential to the breakthroughs that enrich so many lives. Knowing of your views on this issue will be helpful to me as the Senate continues to work on this issue.

Again, thanks for writing. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you in the future.

Sincerely,
Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

Michael May 17, 2013 at 8:14 pm

From Sherrod Brown:

Thank you for expressing your support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Political Science Program. I share your belief that the advancement of knowledge is at the core of America’s prosperity. Investment in research facilities and resources is central to maintaining and further developing that prosperity.

NSF research is fundamentally important to our nation’s economy and security. The partnership between federal agencies and universities is critical to ensuring that the U.S. maintains its position as a global research leader. The Political Science Program awards research grants to political scientists helping to advance our understanding of citizenship, government, and politics.

As the appropriations process continues, I will work to see that NSF programs are adequately funded. Thank you for your advocacy on this issue.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Chris Acuff May 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm

From Bob Corker:

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office with your opposition to an amendment to the budget resolution that would cut funding for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) political science research programs. Your input is important to me, and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts.

I understand the importance of supporting scientific research, and I know that several organizations and universities in our state have been recipients of NSF political science research grants. However, in these times of budget shortfalls, I feel that we must be willing to prioritize our spending and make difficult choices. As you may know, during the budget debate, the Coburn amendment was agreed to by voice vote. However, any actual change in NSF funding must be made through the appropriations process. As we move through this process, the insight and information you have provided here will help my staff and me look more effectively into this issue, and I thank you for your input.

Thank you again for your letter. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me as I serve you in the United States Senate.

Sincerely,

Bob Corker
United States Senator

No response from Lamar Alexander.

Matthew Shugart May 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I received generic letters from both Boxer’s and Feinstein’s offices. Neither response addressed political science specifically, and Boxer’s was especially formulaic.

Matthew Shugart May 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I meant to add that Boxer’s did not even address NSF specifically, let alone political science. It was probably identical to what John’s colleague in California (which, to be clear, was not me) received.

Rochelle Rudnick May 18, 2013 at 9:35 am

From Frank Lautenberg:

Thank you for contacting me about science. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I have been a consistent supporter of federally-sponsored scientific research, foundations, and organizations. Such research has been responsible for countless advances that have improved nearly every facet of human life, and I believe that the government has a responsibility to sponsor key entities so that this progress may continue. These programs are vital to ensuring America’s place on the forefront of technological development, and are worthy of our strong support.

In April 2012, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill with my support. This bill would provide $7.4 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF) an increase of $230,000 over FY 2012. It does not restrict NSF’s ability to fund political science research. This bill currently awaits action before the full Senate.

Please be assured that I support science funding and will keep your views in mind should this issue come before the Senate. Thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Lautenberg

Ralph Maughan May 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

In other words, the APSA needs to change and hire lobbyists. I’d suggest too convening a working group to devise a comeback plan.

From the letters of reply I would guess that these senate offices have heard little about the controversy by direct or indirect contact.

John Sides May 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm
John Sides June 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm

A colleague sends this from Senator Bill Nelson:

Please do not reply to this e-mail. If you need to send another message to Senator Nelson, please use the form on his Web site: http://billnelson.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm#email

Dear XX:

Thank you for contacting me regarding funding for political science research at the NSF. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

Without a healthy education system, our young people will not be prepared to make meaningful contributions to our state and nation. Throughout my career in the Senate, I have been committed to ensuring that all children and young adults enjoy the opportunity to receive a good education.

Improving the quality of education at all levels represents a responsible investment in our future. That is why I supported the Race to the Top initiative, which established competitive grants to States designed to encourage and reward innovation and reform. Florida tied for the largest award, winning $700 million in funding for our public schools. I have also consistently supported early education programs and Federal student aid for those seeking to advance themselves by attending a college or university.

Please be assured that I will work to advance the values and priorities of Floridians as the Senate considers education issues at the federal level. Should you have any further concerns, do not hesitate to contact me again.

Sincerely,
Bill Nelson

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