In the previous Congress, Republicans and Democrats on the science committee in the U.S. House of Representatives worked together to pass dozens of bills aimed at bolstering the U.S. research enterprise. But that much-touted bipartisanship didn’t extend to last week’s House vote to certify the election of Joe Biden to be the next president.
Republicans on the science panel were much more likely than their House colleagues to back the unfounded claims of voter irregularities by their party’s leader, President Donald Trump. Some 77% of the Republicans who served on the committee in the 116th Congress, which ended last month, objected on 6 January to certifying Biden’s electoral college wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania. That level of support for Trump is significantly larger than the 60% of all House Republicans who protested the Arizona results and also tops the 69% who wanted to overturn the outcome in Pennsylvania. (Committee assignments in the new 117th Congress are pending.)
Ten of the 13 science panel Republicans who are still in Congress voted last week to support both challenges. The list includes nine current House members—Representatives Frank Lucas of Oklahoma; Randy Weber, Bruce Babin, and Michael Cloud of Texas; Ralph Norman of South Carolina; Jim Baird of Indiana; Bill Posey of Florida; Andy Biggs of Arizona; and Mo Brooks of Alabama—and one new U.S. senator, Roger Marshall of Kansas. Three Republican House members who served on the science committee in 2019–20 opposed both challenges: Representatives Michael Waltz of Florida and Anthony Gonzalez and Troy Balderson of Ohio.
Although some Republicans fully embraced Trump’s claims of a “stolen” election, two Republican leaders on the science committee offered a more nuanced explanation for their vote. “I share the concerns of many of my fellow Oklahomans about irregularities throughout the 2020 presidential election and agree to the objection,” Lucas, the panel’s top Republican, said in a press release.
Baird, the ranking Republican on the research subcommittee, admitted it was a difficult decision. As a former state legislator, he noted in a press release, “I regularly support the right of states to chart their own path and protect their home rule.” However, Baird said “these actions must still align with our Constitution.” As did Lucas, Baird pointed to his constituents as the final arbiter. “My objection to disputed state electors is at the request of the Hoosiers I represent,” Baird explained.
No Democrat in Congress supported the move to overturn the results. But last week’s vote was a reminder that efforts to advance science in the new Congress, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority, could run afoul of party loyalty.