All summer and into the fall, Congressional Republicans have been attempting to pass a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides critical health care needs to women across the country. After the latest bill failed, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to put forth a “clean bill” that would avoid an October government shutdown. With news breaking today that Speaker John Boehner will quit his post at the end of October and fresh predictions the the shutdown is now unlikely, you might think that this recent quixotic quest has foundered, at least for the moment.
You would be wrong.
S.764 is originally An Act to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes. This was the bill that authorized funding for the National SeaGrant program, one of the flagship marine science, conservation, and fisheries agencies in the United States. Funding for Sea Grant is a truly bipartisan issue. Both sides see the value in continuing this support for ocean issues. How bipartisan? In an era of increasingly schismatic politics, the SeaGrant reauthorization bill passed the senate with unanimous support.
If you wanted to read S.764 today, however, you would be met with this:
Resolved, That the bill from the Senate (S. 764) entitled “An Act to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes.”, do pass with the following Amendment: This Act may be cited as the “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015”
Followed by the text of the much-failed Defund Planned Parenthood Act.
The Sea Grant Reauthorization Act, one of the most widely supported funding bills in recent history, has been gutted for the sake of political showmanship. The bill must now go to a joint committee to reconcile the two versions (the version with almost complete bipartisan support and the version with the text of a multiply-failed bill that has nothing to do with the oceans) before it goes to the President for approval or veto.
For those unfamiliar with the Sea Grant college system, it’s the ocean and coastal addition to the Cooperative Extension program in each of the country’s 33 coastal states and island territories. Each Sea Grant office has their own strategic plan, formed in collaboration with coastal communities with the mission of connecting university research to the needs of coastal residents. Sea Grant goals usually include increasing aquaculture capacity and technological capability, helping keep or make wild harvest fisheries sustainable, maintaining working waterfronts and public access to water resources, and helping coastal communities plan and adapt to climate change and sea level rise. Unlike other federal science programs, Sea Grant runs on a shoestring budget and usually relies on matching contributions from the states, communities, and industries with which they partner most – contributions they usually have no problem getting as a vote of support from the public.
So call, text, tweet, email, fax, or snapchat you congressperson and let them know that, when it comes to Sea Grant, you won’t stand for partisan politics. For all our marine science, marine conservation, and fishermen readers, share your Sea Grant experiences on twitter with the #SeaGrantLove hashtag and remind our representatives that Sea Grant matters to their constituents.