Protect the Funding of US Agencies and Programs that Promote Science, Public Health, and a Clean Environment
This past May, President Trump revealed his full 2018 budget proposal. His proposed budget slashes spending on badly needed programs, from feeding the hungry to adapting to climate change, all to make our money available for a border wall, uncalled-for growth in military spending, and other bad choices that are not in line with our values.
The release of President Trump’s budget kicked off the budget process, and now Congress is beginning to debate and pass spending bills that will determine the funding levels of critical agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, the bills proposed by Congress also include significant cuts to vital programs that advance science, keep our air and water clean, and protect our children’s health. That’s where you come in!
The House and Senate have started voting on harmful spending bills, but nothing is set in stone yet. Now is the time to say NO to cuts at these agencies and NO to harmful policy riders that would roll back public health, safety, and environmental protections, as well as sideline science.
Here is our ask. Reach out to the people who represent you in Washington, D.C.—your representative and your two senators—and ask them to oppose any spending bills that cut the funding for agencies that advance science, keep our air and water clean, and protect our children’s health. Our guide to what is most at risk is below.
How do you get Congress to listen to you?
The more personal your action, the better. Ask anyone who’s ever worked on Capitol Hill and they’ll tell you—the best way to influence a member of Congress is to speak with them in person. If you can’t do that, a phone call is best. One in-person conversation with your senator is worth countless petition signatures.
Remember, they work for you, and it’s their job (and their staff’s) to listen to you. Always be courteous to the people you speak with, but don’t be afraid to call or show up at your congressperson’s office—that’s what they are there for!
Don’t assume someone else has spoken out enough already. We can never make too much noise about the issues we care about. Even if you called yesterday, call again today.
Bring a friend. Multiply your impact by inviting friends, community leaders, neighbors, and networks to join you. Are you or someone you know active in a local political or civic engagement group? Reach out and share with the group what the budget cuts mean for science and the environment. Does your university have an environmental club? Forward them this toolkit or invite them to join UCS!
The three most effective things you can do
1. Drop by the nearest district offices of your senators and your representative.
Your goal: Speak with the senator or representative’s staff about the funding cuts that worry you, and ask them to prevent any cuts to these already underfunded, yet vital, programs.
- Look up the locations of the district offices nearest you on their websites—search for your senators here and your representative here. They usually list their office addresses at the very bottom of the website.
- Use our talking points and prepare what you’d like to say to each member. It’s a good idea to practice before you show up at their office.
- Print or clip any materials you’d like to bring with you, like a recent news article about the budget, or a UCS report or blog post.
At the office: When you arrive, ask the staff who greet you whether you can speak with the senator/representative, and if not, who the best staff person to ask about policy is. If you do get to sit down with someone besides the person at the front desk, great! If not, that’s ok too—share your thoughts and materials with whoever gives you their time, thank them, and ask for their business card.
Hi, my name is ______ and I’m a constituent from [city]. I’m dropping by because I’m really concerned by President Trump’s new budget. I’d like to speak briefly with the senator/representative; is he/she available? [if not] Is there a staff member available I can speak with? I’d like to know the senator/representative’s position on the proposed cuts to [insert issue here]. This would be terrible for our district, so I want to make sure Senator/Representative ____will oppose these damaging cuts! [insert your personal story or use our talking points]
How can I find out the senator/representative’s position on these proposed cuts?
After: Tell us how it went! Tell your friends, neighbors, and maybe even the local paper—you could write a letter to the editor about how the Congressperson’s office was (or wasn’t) receptive, how important it is to defend the budget from these cuts, and encourage others to take action themselves! Finally, send an email to the person you spoke with thanking them for their time, and reiterating your questions or concerns.
2. Go to a Town Hall and ask a question.
Your goal: Use a very public forum to make your questions and comments heard by your elected officials, your fellow citizens, and the media. And to get a direct answer from your member of Congress! If you have seen recent coverage of congressional town halls, you know how effective they can be!
- Visit TownHallProject.com to see if your senators and representative are holding any town halls near you this recess. If so, can you make it to one near you? Make plans to go, and bring some friends or family!
- Use our talking points below and prepare what you’d like to say to each member. It’s a good idea to practice what you’d like to say in advance of the Town Hall.
- Write or print out your prepared words on an index card so you will have them in front of you.
- Print out a free Stand Up for Science sign to bring with you!
- Recruit a friend to come along and record you asking the question—and the response you get!
At the town hall:
- Arrive early to make sure you get a seat. Ask the facilitators how they will call on people—is there a line, a list, or should you just raise your hand? Plan your strategy to get your time at the mic.
- Take pictures and video during the event—you may not get to ask your question, but someone else might ask about science, and you can amplify their message!
- Have your talking points handy, and be assertive about getting your question asked.
- Keep your tone courteous, no matter how you may feel about your elected officials—our goal is to raise our concerns in respectful dialogue.
After: If you captured good photos or video, share them—on Facebook and twitter, using the hashtag #StandUpforScience. And be sure to tell us how it went!
3. Call your senators and your representative.
Your goal: Make noise about these unacceptable cuts to the protections we need. If you can’t get face time with your members of Congress or their staff, picking up the phone is the next best thing. And since picking up the phone is so easy, you can call as often as you want!
Use our talking points below to choose one or two issues most important to you, and most relevant to your hometown. Think about what the senators and representative are most likely to be moved by, too. Use our sample script to write out what you’d like to say in advance and have paper ready to take notes while you’re on the phone.
Hi, my name is ______, and I’m calling from ________. I’m calling to let Senator _______/Representative _________ know that I strongly oppose any cuts to the funding of critical agencies and programs that protect renewable energy, science, and public health. I’m particularly worried about cuts to ____ because [insert issue #1, and why it matters to you or in your state]. I’m also worried that cuts to [insert issue #2] will harm our state/district by [insert local impacts of issue #2]. Do you know the senator/representative’s position on those cuts, and whether he/she will oppose any spending bill that cuts funding to these critical agencies?
If they have no answer, or tell you the member is in favor of those cuts: Okay, would you please tell them that I strongly urge them to oppose these cuts to already underfunded yet vital agencies?
If the senator/rep. is opposed to these cuts: That’s great. Would you thank him/her for me and ask him/her to work to ensure these programs/agencies, which are already underfunded, receive no cuts in funding?
Thank you for your time and for passing on my comments to the senator/representative.
Making the call:
- Have your script in front of you, and a pen and paper to take notes on the conversation.
- Call the US Capitol at (202) 224-3121; they’ll direct you to your representative or one of your senators. Remember to be courteous, and if you don’t get through, try looking up the phone number for your nearest district office instead.
- If you get sent to voicemail, share your thoughts in the voicemail and be sure to state your name and home address, so they’ll know you are a constituent and so they’ll record your position on the budget.
After: Pick up the phone again, and call your other senator and your representative too. Save their office numbers in your phone, so you can always call when you need to make your voice heard. And be sure to tell us how it went!
UCS is half a million supporters strong, so have no doubt: with your help, we can defend science and public health protections from funding cuts. Congress won’t be able to ignore you!
We are closely tracking the Congressional process so you don’t have to. The spending bills are hundreds of pages long, and contain deep cuts to many programs that we depend on for public health and safety, for scientific progress, and more. All of it matters, but we’ve pulled out some of the programs that are most at risk of being cut. We suggest you pick just one or two points that you are most passionate about. How will this impact your job, the air you breathe, the food you eat? If you’re a scientist, how does your research inform your opinion? Choose what you know best.
The spending proposals Congress is debating:
- Slash funds for energy innovation. The House of Representatives would eliminate the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), and cut almost half of the money for the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy program. This means the United States will fall behind the fast pace of energy innovation, and severely limit the agency’s work collaborating with businesses to make our nation more sustainable. And other cuts mean we would take a step backwards when it comes to vehicle technology, slashing some research funds by 70% and completely eliminating the successful Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM), which has helped automakers and suppliers produce important fuel saving technologies, such as stop-start technology, batteries for electric vehicles, and more.
- Decrease funding for research that helps us understand our planet and what’s beyond. The House bill proposes a 19% cut to climate change research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a 23% cut to NOAA’s satellite program, which we depend on for weather forecasting and other critical activities of national importance. These cuts, and the 11% cut to NASA’s earth science budget, would create long-lasting repercussions for scientific research, national security, and emergency preparedness.
- Cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our efforts have avoided the worst—the Trump administration wanted to cut EPA funding by 31%—but what is being proposed in Congress is far from acceptable. The EPA spending bill passed by the relevant House committee would bring the budget of the EPA to the lowest level since 2008. Many of the remaining cuts directly impact communities of color, such as a 15% cut to the Office of Environmental Justice. EPA’s research division would lose more than $100 million in funding for clean air and climate change research.
- Cut funding for programs that feed the hungry and provide assistance to rural and urban residents. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a cost-effective program with a track record of success in alleviating hunger and poverty—could be cut by $193 billion, or more than 25% over 10 years. Such a decrease would directly lead to suffering and hunger for tens of millions of Americans in communities across the country.
- Include harmful anti-science riders. After all these spending cuts, there’s also the threat of harmful anti-science riders—extra policies tacked onto spending bills that can do even more damage. Many of these riders aim to roll back public health, safety, and environmental protections, as well as sideline science. These anti-science riders would, for example:
- “Legislate” that the burning of trees for energy is positive for climate change, which flies in the face of scientific evidence
- Delay implementation of science-based standards, like the EPA’s 2015 update to ground-level ozone, which is solely based on public health
- Permit the administration to ignore scientific and public input as Scott Pruitt’s EPA attempts to withdraw the Clean Water Rule
- Allow policymakers to overrule biologists and wildlife managers when it comes to protecting our nation’s threatened and endangered wildlife, such as the sage grouse
Share this toolkit with your friends and ask them to get involved, too. We need everyone’s help to stand up for science and push back against any cuts to vital programs in the budget.
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