The National Science Foundation (NSF) doesn't have many enemies on Capitol Hill. So it raised eyebrows on Tuesday when an innocuous congressional resolution (H Res 1307) marking the agency's 60th anniversary failed to win unanimous approval, passing the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 370 to 2.
The two dissenters were representatives Ron Paul (R-TX) and Paul Broun (R-GA). Broun is also a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, which has oversight of NSF and several other science agencies.
"Dr. Broun opposes funding for NSF primarily because it is not a constitutional government program," says Debbee Keller, his communications director.
"And with the national debt reaching over $12.9 trillion, we have to cut back on government spending to ensure our children and grandchildren are provided with the same freedoms and opportunities every other generation has enjoyed."
The resolution, which labels NSF "one of the premier scientific organizations in the world," doesn't actually call for any increase in funding for the $7 billion agency. No matter, says Keller. "As a strict, original-intent constitutionalist, Dr. Broun understands that spending of this nature violates the authorities enumerated in Article 1 Section 8."
Minutes after Broun and Paul went after NSF, the pair took a stand against an equally bland resolution (H Res 1213) in support of improving science and math education that also applauds an ongoing partnership between schools and scientists called National Lab Day. That resolution passed by a vote of 378 to 2. "The Constitution does not authorize Congress to participate in the education system," Keller explains. "As a result, Dr. Broun understands that education systems should be state-based."
Paul's spokesperson declined repeated inquiries from ScienceInsider to explain his vote.