Citations for CFI/OPP awards to four members of Congress

March 26, 2009

The Center for Inquiry Award for the Advancement of Science and Reason during the 110 th Congress honors members of Congress who have worked to further our values. The purpose of the Center for Inquiry—a transnational, nonpartisan, and nonprofit organization—is to promote and defend reason, science, and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor. Its Office of Public Policy works in Washington D.C. to ensure that public policy is based on scientific thinking, evidence and reason; maintains the separation of church and state; and promotes civil rights. In their legislative actions and their speeches during the 110 th Congress (2007-8), the recipients of the CFI Award have endorsed these values. They deserve this honor and our profound thanks.

Representative Henry A. Waxman
has a distinguished record of effective support for human rights, integrity in government, and action to address global warming and clean energy development. Representative Waxman has been a member of Congress for 35 years, representing a Los Angeles district. 

In the 110 th Congress, he became Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. From January 2007 until the end of the 110 th Congress, Representative Waxman’s committee was the guardian of consumers’ rights, particularly in cases where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be protecting them; of whistleblowers’ rights; and, above all, of scientific integrity in reporting climate change and global warming. Among the many hearings on global warming, the March 19, 2007 hearing brought before Representative Waxman’s committee Dr. James Hansen, a distinguished NASA climate scientist, whose research that helped establish global warming as a man-made phenomenon. Two administration appointees publicly acknowledged that reports of Dr. Hansen’s research had been suppressed for political purposes. The Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy worked closely with Representative Waxman’s staff on language in the Federal Advisory Committees Act (FACA) that will ensure that scientific advisory committees are chosen for scientific expertise not partisan affiliations.

Representative Waxman supported H.R.3, The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 . His committee twice evaluated “abstinence-only” sex education, which has been shown to be ineffective in preventing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. He has been relentless in pursuing enforcement of clean water and clean air. We salute him for his commitment to science and reason as the basis of public policy and thank him for his services to humanity in the 110 th Congress.

Representative Brian N. Baird
has been a member of Congress for the Vancouver district of Washington State for 10 years. He now serves as chair of the House subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, and is also a member of subcommittees on Research and Science Education and Water Resources and the Environment. Trained as a psychologist, Representative Baird was a faculty member and then chair of the psychology department at Pacific Lutheran University, before beginning his political career.

In the 110 th Congress, Representative Baird was chair of the subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Under his leadership, the subcommittee worked on two major areas: education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), especially for women and minorities; and science diplomacy, including national security and international cooperation.

The subcommittee on Research and Science Education held hearings on the laboratory experience of U.S. high school students; the role of community colleges; and the National Science Board’s Action Plan for STEM Education. One hearing focused on nanotechnology education. As a result of his subcommittee’s hearings, Representative Baird cosponsored H.R. 6314, Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act of 2008.

Representative Baird’s interest in the transnational nature of science led him to work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in setting up the Center for Science Diplomacy, initiated in October 2008. The cooperation with the AAAS underlines Representative Baird’s emphasis on the importance of nongovernmental organizations and universities in international science and technology cooperation.We salute Representative Baird for his services to the future of science as the basis of public policy at home and across the globe.

Representative Michael M. Honda
is a former science teacher and school principal who has represented a San Jose district in California for eight years. His work in Congress advances his lifelong passion for bringing scientific knowledge to the public and for advocating science as the basis of difficult policy decisions. His own lifestory—his Japanese-American family was interned in Colorado during World War II—has strengthened his compassion for minorities in U.S. society. He was also a member of the Peace Corps in El Salvador and is fluent in Spanish.

In 2008, Representative Honda introduced in the House H.R. 6104, The Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Act simultaneously with then-Senator Barack Obama in the Senate. Other bills that Representative Honda introduced include The Global Warming Education Act; Innovations for our Nation’s Vital Educational Needs for Technology; National Hepatitis B Act; and Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act . He cosponsored the Clean Energy Act of 2007, and has made public statements objecting to references to “clean coal.”

He has shown his compassion towards immigrants struggling to learn English with his Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act in 2008.

Believing strongly that religion should not only be separate from state business, but should also be respected, Representative Honda eloquently defended the right of Representative Keith Ellison to use the Quran when he was sworn in as Congress’s only Muslim member in 2007. Representative Honda has often defended American Muslims from unreasonable slurs and verbal attacks. We salute Representative Honda for his devotion both to science education and to civil rights.

Representative Vernon J. Ehlers
has represented the Grand Rapids district of Michigan for 16 years. He is a member of the Education and Labor Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, and is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Representative Ehlers has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, taught and did research at the University of California Berkeley and was a professor and chair of the physics department at Calvin College in Michigan before beginning his political career.

Representative Ehlers is devoted to education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). He is always in attendance at hearings and briefings on science education in the House. He is co-chair of the STEM Education Caucus, and a member of Republicans for Environment Protection. He cosponsored H.R. 6104, The Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Act .

In 2007, Representative Ehlers introduced, among others, the Science Accountability Act of 2007 ; the Math and Science School Readiness Act of 2007 ; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act ; the Aquatic Invasive Species Research Act ; and the Improving Mathematics and Science Teacher Quality Act . He voted for tax incentives for energy production and conservation, and for renewable energy projects. He also voted to increase funding for waterway infrastructure.

Representative Ehlers is outspoken in his support for STEM education, especially for women and minorities. As a scientist himself, he understands the importance of good science education—from kindergarten through graduate school—to the future of our nation. We salute him and thank him for his enthusiasm and devotion to a cause we heartily endorse.

Representative Diana L. DeGette
has been an outspoken advocate for policies based on good science. She has represented Denver CO in the House of Representatives for 12 years, and fought long and hard during the 110 th Congress, for stem cell research, access to birth control, improvement of child health, and real sex education. The fact that many of her efforts were frustrated does not diminish their value.

She sponsored H.R. 3, The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 designed to lift restrictions on stem cell research, which passed the House but was stopped by presidential veto. She introduced bills on health research, public health, and reproductive rights: Prevent Prematurity and Improve Child Health Act of 2007; Children’s Health Care Quality Act H.R. 7141; and Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2008 . She cosponsored the Prevention First Act, and the Emergency Contraception Act of 2007. She is the co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus.

In 2007, she prevented an increase in funding for “abstinence-only” sex education in an appropriations bill. Her aim was to eliminate the funding altogether, but at least she kept it from being increased, since “abstinence-only” has been shown by research to be ineffective. She also fought to include birth control in assistance to the USAID in the 2007 omnibus appropriations bill. The House voted to include it, but the threat of a presidential veto kept it out of the final bill.

Representative DeGette is also the author of the recently published book, Sex, Science, and Stem Cells , which chronicles her work in Congress to bring reason and science to bear on topics like stem cell research that are distorted by myth and emotion. We salute Representative DeGette for her dedication to science as the basis of public policy.