Through an Executive Order that gives political appointees final say regarding science-based federal agency regulations and the appointment of an anti-educationist to head the Office of Management and Budget, US President George W. Bush is attempting to insulate his administration from congressional accountability while effectively turning federal scientists into White House puppets, a group of scientists warned today.
Union if Concerned Scientists and OMB Watch urged Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to question the President's nominee US Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) on his opinion of Bush administration Executive Order 13422, which goes into effect today.
The executive order bans any regulation from moving forward without the approval of an agency's regulatory policy officer, who would be a political appointee.
UCS urged the Senate committee to ask Nussle, the man who championed federal funding cuts for education while promoting tax cuts for the rich, how he would ensure that political appointees would not interfere with the work of agency scientists.
Nussle confirmation would mean that the man who led the effort to cut $12.7 billion from higher education, including the largest cut to the federal student loan program in its history while supporting f $958 billion in tax cuts for the rich will have central responsibility for implementing the Bush administration's agenda in such areas as defense programs, energy initiatives and tax policies.
"We have a corps of highly trained scientists in federal agencies. Why would we want to undermine their expertise and authority?" said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program. "This executive order greatly expands the power of the White House to weaken the ability of federal agencies to protect public health and safety. We have the right to know where Mr. Nussle stands."
The groups also sent the letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), who is holding an additional confirmation hearing for Nussle later this week.