Monday, November 17, 2008

Paulsen should seek Gutknecht’s seat

This is a big week that will decide whether Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03 Elect) has an impact for Minnesota in the 111th Congress. Paulsen will make his first votes on the leadership of his caucus and press his case for which committees he would like to serve.

When Tim Walz (D-MN-01) was faced with the same opportunity, he saw the openings left by Gil Gutknecht and Mark Kennedy who would not be returning to be part of the 110th Congress. Walz hit a home run on committee assignments … taking Gutknecht’s spot on Agriculture and Kennedy’s spot on Transportation … plus Veterans Affairs and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. His resounding re-election proved that the District approved of his work on those committees.

Paulsen has expressed a desire to assume Jim Ramstad’s seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Arguably that is one of the most powerful committees in the House, and as such many other experienced legislators will be vying for that assignment.

Unfortunately, one of Gutknecht’s committees no longer has a Minnesotan assigned. In fact there has been a vacancy that the Republicans did not fill during the 110th session. Interestingly, the ranking Republican, Ralph Hall (TX-04) was elected as a Democrat in 1980 and did not switch parties until 2004.

If Paulsen wants to serve Minnesota’s interests, he should aggressively seek an assignment to the Committee on Science and Technology.
By now the chants of “Drill, Baby Drill” have died down, but the energy crisis has not … even as the credit crisis has expanded.
The Science and Technology committee can have a major impact on America’s future … and Minnesota needs to part of it. The future of energy may be created by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E. Much like the Defense Department’s DARPA program which developed the Internet as well as GPS, ARPA-E may be the answer to our energy needs.
DOE and private-sector research can easily produce long lists of energy technology projects, but what Congress needs to do is to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. With programs like Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering and Technology (AMET) at Minnesota State University- Mankato, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Forestry’s woody biomass project, or the use of biomass gasifier at the University of Minnesota-Morris, Minnesota has plenty of “ideas” that just need a “champion”.

The Bush Administration requested no funds for ARPA-E in FY2009 while candidate Obama proposed $150 billion in spending on advanced energy technologies. This will be an important assignment that Paulsen should seek out.

While some may say that the private sector should pay for their own research, that “Pollyanna” idea will be seriously challenged as businesses go through their own evaluation of their financial outlook where too often the first things that are cut is Research and Development funding.
There is no doubt that the national debt should cause some serious funding questions be asked … including Bush’s human missions to Mars and other NASA programs. For that matter, I would hope that Congress takes a good hard look at the Bush’s funding of such programs as $13 million for Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP) which will train new professionals to preserve Iraq's historic treasures and to protect archaeological sites in Iraq … as well as the $300 million for "information/psychological operations" in Iraq (also known as propaganda) ... and $45 million for polls and focus groups to monitor Iraqi attitudes. The Department of State estimates it will spend $5.6 million on public diplomacy in Iraq in fiscal 2008.
A good chunk of that money should be re-assigned to Science and Technology projects.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Hey -- thanks for visiting, and I am glad the Iacocca stuff helped you out. I have a lot of respect for him and it's sad that someone has taken his words and used them for nefarious purposes. Hope your holiday weekend is restful!