With a precarious hold on the national laboratories in her district, Rep. Ellen Tauscher took a break from her redistricting battles Wednesday to chat with employees, vowing to continue fighting for the labs when she returns to Washington next week.
At the start of her one-hour town hall meeting at Sandia, Tauscher noted that as of 11 a.m. that morning she still represented LLNL and Sandia, but had to take an afternoon phone call which could change her district borders.
“Just don’t answer the phone,” joked vice president of Sandia’s California laboratory, Mim John, drawing laughter from the audience of Sandia and LLNL employees.
Tauscher said she was glad to be home, but had hoped to spend much of August on vacation. Then redistricting happened, she noted wryly.
“September is always a tough month, but after this month, I’ll be happy to get out of this vacation and get back to work,” Tauscher joked.
She then spoke informally and off the cuff for more than an hour with Sandia and Lab employees on a wide range of topics, including defense spending, transportation, taxes and social security.
One of the first topics she will have to address when Congress resumes in September is the Bush Administration’s plan to support national missile defense. The money would be better spent and national security better protected, Tauscher said, through nonproliferation, intelligence, security and homeland defense. “The scientist-to-scientist, country-to-country” work needs to be preserved.
“It’s confusing, but when they bring the bill to the floor, I will try very hard to get that money added back in,” she said.
Addressing Bush’s tax cut, Tauscher said she was the only Bay Area Democrat to support the cut, but did so reluctantly.
“I voted for the tax cuts. I supported a tax cut and believed it could help stimulate the economy. But I had to vote for one that I felt was too great in the out years,” she said. “We can’t predict the economy for the next 10 years, but every year in Washington we do it and every time we’re wrong.”
Regarding a proposal to revisit base closures, which could include DOE laboratories in the review, Tauscher vowed to protect the labs.
“I promise you that I will fight like hell to protect you. We have to keep the lab footprint as it is,” she said, with three weapons laboratories. “I’m not going to let California lose.”
Responding to a Sandia scientist who said one of his energy labs will be without funding beginning Oct. 1, Tauscher said she strongly supports energy research, especially given the energy crisis.
“It’s inexplicable to me that we would be making these cuts. I’m never going to support cutting R&D funds,” Tausher said. “I’ll go back and I’ll help fight for it to be reinstated.”
Asked about the NNSA and Gen. John Gordon, Tauscher said Gordon is “the right guy for the time. I’m very supportive of John Gordon.”