Of Budgets and Briefings

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Friday, June 9, 2017


Eleanor Hook

Well, here I am at the end of my first full week—and what a week it’s been! The science committee alone had both a hearing and a markup yesterday, so a good part of the week was spent in preparation for those. The hearing was an exciting one to discuss the proposed NASA budget, and NASA associate administrator Robert Lightfoot came to testify. While I wasn’t able to attend the hearing in person, I watched it live from the office and was struck by how bipartisan it was. Clearly everyone loves space!

I did get to the markup, which was on Chairman Lamar Smith’s H.R. 2809, the “American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017”. Essentially, the bill seeks to reform U.S. authorization and supervision of private space activities. However, Ranking Member Johnson opposed the bill, citing several concerns that it was not yet ready for primetime. Besides helping with the preparation and setup, I was the official photographer for the minority office, so I got to walk around lots with the camera!

I was amazed at how easy and familiar all the congressmen are with each other, since the clips on TV are often very formal. But everyone was involved, chatting, laughing and even joking around with each other during the markup. One especially memorable moment of sass came when, after a particularly warm round of praise from Rep. Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), Rep. Perlmutter (D-Colorado) accused him of sabotaging his primaries-- to which Rep. Bridenstine rejoined by declaring Rep. Perlmutter his worst enemy. “How does that help your primaries?” he joked, to general laughter.

I was also able to attend a number of other events outside of the Science Committee, including a briefing on the national security implications of climate change, a briefing on the state of sickle cell disease and genome editing, and, as will particularly interest my scientist friends, the NSF Budget Hearing with the Appropriations Committee. Again, I was surprised at how bipartisan this hearing was; all members of the committee seemed just as concerned about President Trump’s proposed 11% cut as the director of NSF herself. Of course, we still have to see what happens when Congress votes on the budget as a whole, but it was clear that the committee greatly valued research and science outreach.

It’s been a busy week for sure, but I am loving every minute of my time on the Hill. Just being here in the middle of everything and getting to observe the inner workings of government is an incredible opportunity. There’s always so much going on!

Eleanor Hook