Election '94 What Does It Mean for Scientific Psychology?

The results of the November 8 election have swept Washington with the force of an elephant stampede. The Republican party now holds 53 seats to the Democrats' 47 in the Senate, and the tally is 231 Republicans to 203 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Republicans control the Senate for the first time since 1986 and the House for the first time in 40 years. The shocks and aftershocks continue as the Republicans in both chambers begin a sweeping transition, preparing for new committee leadership, touting a new agenda, and implementing enormous staff changes. What does it all mean for scientific psychology?

Changes in Committee Leadership

Expected to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee is moderate Republican Mark Hatfield (OR), a solid supporter of research and coauthor of the Harkin-Hatfield proposal to supplement health research funding with new revenues. Sen. Hatfield chaired the Appropriations Committee from 1980 to 1986. Chairing the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS will most likely be moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), who launched a long-shot bid for the presidency on November 14. Sen. Specter is a strong supporter of health research funding. Due to other committee shifts, Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bonds (MO) will most likely chair the VA-HUD Subcommittee and Sen. Ted Stevens (AK), the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee has gone to Rep. Bob Livingston (LA). Although fifth in line according to seniority, he won the coveted post because the most senior Republican, Rep. Joseph McDade (PA), is under indictment. The Republican leadership believes that Rep. Livingston will be successful moving the Republican budget agenda. Rep. McDade's indictment will also prevent him from assuming the chair of the Defense Subcommittee, which will go to Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL). A solid supporter of research funding, Rep. John E. Porter (IL) will probably lead the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee. Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA) will be chair of the VA-HUD Subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Rep. Lewis has been supportive of NSF in the past.

Other new leaders in key science policy committees will include Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (KS) as chair of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, which authorizes NIH, and Sen. Larry Pressler (NC) as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which authorizes NSF. Sen. Strom Thurmond (SC) will be the new chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Thomas Bliley (VA) will chair the key House Energy and Commerce Committee and may also chair the Health and Environment Subcommittee, which oversees NIH. Rep. Bob Walker (PA) will chair the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Changes in the Agenda

By now most election watchers are familiar with the Republican 'Contract With America,' unveiled before the election. The Republican leadership has promised to bring a number of measures to a vote within 100 days of the beginning of the new congressional session in January. Among the measures on the agenda are a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto; possi-ble revisions to the recently passed anticrime legislation; welfare reform, termed 'The Personal Responsibility Act'; a school voucher program; a mid-dle-class tax cut; tighter restrictions on the U.S. contribution to the United Na-tions; a senior-citizen tax cut; a capital gains tax cut; legal and product liability reform; and congressional term limits.

Elizabeth Baldwin, APA Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, noted, 'Contract With America specifically mentions cutting out the growth in the NSF budget. Clearly APA supports a vigorous research agenda at NSF and that can't be accomplished with zero- growth budget.'

'The agenda is troubling on a number of fronts,' said APA Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer Pat Kobor. 'To enact large tax cuts and avoid ballooning the deficit, Congress will have to make enormous spending cuts. The research programs, even though they have always had strong support in Congress, are sitting ducks and are unlikely to be spared. Science advocacy organizations including APA will need to focus whatever persuasive power they have on the budget process and the budget amendments, if they hope to ensure there will still be research funds left to be allocated in the Appropriations committees.'

Andrea Solarz, PhD, APA Assistant Director for Science Policy, commented, 'Calls to revisit the anticrime bill are predicated on the assumption that money spent on prevention should be redirected to building prisons. APA supports funding for prevention programs that are shown to be effective, and for evaluation of promising programs, but the bottom line is that effective prevention is less costly than punishment. APA will bring psychological research on prevention to bear on this issue.'

Welfare reform proposals are aimed at reducing federal expenditures for the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Janet O'Keeffe, DrPH, APA Acting Managing Director of the Public Policy Office, said, 'Specific provisions in the Contract would cut off benefits after 2 years and deny benefits to teenage mothers. Because 2/3 of AFDC recipients are under 18, APA is concerned about the impact of welfare reform proposals on the physical and mental health of children. APA will be working throughout the debate to ensure that relevant social science research is used to formulate policy and legislation in this important area.'

'The Republicans are promising fast action, because they believe they have little time to deliver the goods to an angry and cynical electorate,' said Kobor. 'It is more important now than ever before for psychologists to contact their Representatives and Senators to weigh in on these issues, because the incoming Congress will certainly have its ear to the ground.'

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