News: News Archives
While election battles continued in Florida on November 15, political pundits Norm Ornstein and Skip Stiles addressed scientists and science policy watchers at AAAS in Washington, D.C. Ornstein and Stiles opined mostly on the newly elected Congress, which will be almost equally split among Democrats and Republicans, but they also offered perspectives on the extraordinary lack of closure in the presidential race.
Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Roll Call columnist and election-night commentator for CBS News, reflected on possible repercussions of the election imbroglio. Whichever party loses the hotly contested presidential race, he declared, is likely to emerge victorious in the mid-term Congressional elections. "Believing the election has been stolen from them," Ornstein said, will galvanize a large group of voters in 2002. This likely scenario, Ornstein said, has many Congressional Democrats and Republicans hoping that the candidate of the other party wins the presidential contest.
On a light note, Stiles joked that federal R&D funds might be consumed largely by "election R&D" given the uneven and often low-tech state of the nation's election systems. Stiles once headed the Democratic staff of the House Science Committee and now is the executive director of the Genetic Resources Communications System.
As for the next session of Congress, policy changes will be limited and incremental, Ornstein believes, because of the tight political margins. He said that doesn't mean there will be gridlock, however, as he expects moderates on both sides of the aisle "to see if they can create a critical mass to move legislation."
Ornstein said that while there is bi-partisan support for increasing funds for the National Institutes of Health, that neither candidate Gore nor Bush mentioned that they would try to cap the growth of entitlement programs. Continued growth in these programs, he said, means that "basic R&D and defense funding are going to be hard to come by." While Stiles believes there will be growth in defense funding in either a Bush or Gore administration, both commentators think there will be a lot of competition for R&D dollars in the coming years.
Ornstein noted that while Gore has had "a long and abiding interest in science, it is not likely to make much difference on Capitol Hill," where dollars are allocated. Stiles generally agreed, saying that he expected only "a few more satellites" in NASA's future under a Gore as opposed to a Bush administration. A Bush administration might also portend bans on stem-cell and related research, said Stiles.
This forum was the second sponsored by the Washington Science Policy Alliance, a loosely knit coalition of institutions that includes AAAS; Center for International Science and Technology Policy, George Washington University; Center for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Columbia University and Georgia Tech; Science & Technology Policy Program, George Mason University; Program in Science, Technology & International Affairs, Georgetown University; RAND Science & Technology Policy Institute; Science & Technology Policy Program, SRI International; and the Science & Technology Studies Program, Virginia Tech, Northern Virginia Center.
Catherine B. Alexander
Senior Communications Officer
News & Information Office
American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
1200 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20005