Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) was selected on Wednesday to chair the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which controls, in part, the budgets for NASA, the Department of Energy the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), FEMA and the FAA, among numerous other critical federal agencies.
“The Science Committee can play an exciting part in the discoveries of science, the exploration of space and the development of new technologies,” Smith said in a statement posted on his website. “I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues and look forward to chairing the Committee next Congress.”
A number of Web users have expressed concern about the appointment, however, arguing that several of Smith’s stances and prior legislative moves are actually at odds with science and technology.
For one thing, Smith was the primary sponsor of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that was indefinitely tabled in January following widespread criticism from Web freedom advocates and leading tech brands, culminating in mass online protests in which Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and other major websites partially or fully “blacked out” their homepages and encouraged users to vocally oppose the bill as well.
Now Reddit, a website whose users (“Redditors”) took a leading role in the opposition to SOPA, is on high alert.
“Seriously, what the, how did this even happen,” asked one Redditor.
Meanwhile, other left-leaning web outlets including Think Progress’s Climate Progress, Mother Jones and The Huffington Post have pointed out that Smith has previously questioned scientific consensus on climate change.
When asked about these concerns, Smith’s communications director, Kim Smith Hicks, issued the following responses.
“With regards to SOPA, we pulled the bill back in January,” Hicks told TPM via email. “Any future legislation dealing with online piracy will be handled by the new Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte.”
“And with regards to ‘what qualifies him to serve as Chairman on Science?’ - he is the most senior member currently on the Committee that has not already served as Chairman,” Hicks told TPM. “He’s been on the Science Committee for 26 years. This is all we’re saying at this time.”