We aren't surprised to see Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray rally behind the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Saving the Richland laboratory from deep cuts is top of mind for the state's congressional delegation as Congress grapples with the federal budget.
The senators' support is welcome, appreciated and necessary. But for all the clout the pair can bring to Senate deliberations, the real battle is in the House, where the Republican majority is determined to show progress on curbing federal spending.
That leaves U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings with the heavy lifting on this issue. As many as 600 jobs at PNNL could depend on whether he is successful in convincing his caucus that it fiscally is irresponsible to slash money for the national laboratory system.
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It won't be easy.
House Republicans are right on a couple of points -- the soaring federal deficit must be addressed, and any fix will hurt some member's constituents.
Those points put a tall hurdle in front of anyone arguing for a specific program.
But decimating the national laboratory system is such a destructive policy for the nation that House Republicans must be convinced to find another target for their budget ax.
Hastings -- with his solid conservative credentials, expertise on Energy Department programs and issues, seniority and chairmanship of a key House committee -- is uniquely suited to play a persuasive role.
The House version of the federal budget for the remainder of the fiscal year includes nearly $3 billion in cuts to programs that pay for research at PNNL and other national laboratories.
The exact impact on the Tri-Cities is difficult to predict, but PNNL figures it will range from 100 to 600 jobs. The economic damage runs much deeper, of course.
About 4,500 of PNNL's employees are in Richland. The local payroll totals $410 million. Under any measure, there's a massive multiplier effect as that money is spent and spent again.
In addition to payroll, PNNL spends about $27 million a year with merchants in Kennewick, Richland, Pasco and Walla Walla, and a total of $57 million statewide.
The connection between the national laboratory's budget and the community's economic health is important. National leaders ought to understand how their decisions affect American families.
But it's not enough to justify the billions in tax dollars spent at our national laboratories.
We understand the skepticism that's triggered whenever government spending is described as an investment, but in the case of the national laboratory system, the description is accurate.
In fact, fully one-half of U.S. economic growth since 1945 can be attributed to investments in science and technology, according to Mike Kluse, director of DOE's national lab in Richland.
Our nation's security and economic prosperity depend on innovations developed at PNNL and the other labs.
Scientists employed in the national laboratories are finding cleaner and safer ways to fill our nation's energy needs, while decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.
Their efforts are reducing the risk of terrorist attacks and improving American lives in countless other ways. Their discoveries are essential if we hope to compete in a global economy.
We understand that bringing the deficit under control is essential. The bold moves that are necessary will result in widespread pain.
But the cuts to the national laboratory system proposed by the House will weaken, rather than strengthen, the nation's economy and security.
Hastings has a tough job convincing his colleagues of that. Fortunately, he has reason on his side.