The GOP-led Senate ratified last week Republican Sen. John Thune as the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the new Congress, so kudos to new beginnings. But Thune strangely — or perhaps not so, considering some Republicans' general disdain for science — selected Sen. Ted Cruz to oversee NASA and science programs, after naming him chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness.
While Cruz's ability to lead a Senate subcommittee isn't the issue here — I'm sure he's perfectly capable — the decision is odd because Cruz, well, is not exactly NASA's biggest fan. In 2013, Cruz attempted to cut NASA's budget in a move he said would properly rebalance the space agency's priorities, because I guess NASA is just flying to space willy nilly, searching for the origins of life, or whatever.
The Texas senator also made a 21-hour long speech in an effort to defund Obamacare in 2013, which led to the government shutdown that, in turn, led to a whopping 97 percent of NASA employees unable to go to work. The 16-day shutdown had long-term repercussions, as not only did it cost taxpayers millions of dollars as it lost momentum in big projects, but it also hindered tests that were time-sensitive, stalling important progress.
Besides space exploration, one of NASA's chief responsibilities is to collect data on climate science, including information on sea level rise, the temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, the state of the ozone layer, air pollution, and changes in sea ice and land ice. Unfortunately, Cruz has been a persistent denier of global warming, refusing even to acknowledge that it exists. In a CNN interview, he said:
The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that – that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn't happened.
Earth to Sen. Cruz: Climate change is real; global warming is about the world as a whole warming up — not just the U.S. — hence the word "global."
While the Tea Party leader's appointment as chairman of the subcommittee isn't secure yet, he's expected to be confirmed into the position by the new Republican-controlled Senate. Fingers crossed that Cruz will not be totally loco in regards to his supervision of NASA — he did say in 2013, though during his attempt at slashing NASA's budget:
It's critical that the United States ensure its continued leadership in space.
No doubt the senator has a different vision of what the space agency should prioritize, but should his authority hinder NASA's progress, this appointment might not work out so well. No matter — if it doesn't turn into a circus show, there's always Sen. Marco Rubio to watch. Cruz's fellow Republican climate change refuser, will, upon his end-of-the-month confirmation, also chair a science-heavy Senate subcommittee — I know, what are they thinking?? — on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard.
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