Republicans and Democrats in the United States House of Representatives have now selected their Committee chairmen and ranking members, respectively, for the 112th Congress. The following provides a brief introduction to some of the new leaders of the House of Representatives. Additional details about subcommittee leadership will appear in a future AIBS Public Policy Report.

Two Republicans will run the House Science and Technology Committee next year. Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) was selected to chair the committee; Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) will serve as the committee’s vice chair. Hall has served as the ranking member of the committee for the past four years. One of his primary interests in science policy is space exploration. Although he supported the America COMPETES Act of 2007, he voted against its reauthorization this year due to concerns over the cost of the legislation. Hall is also a vocal skeptic of climate change. In a statement released after his selection as chair, Hall said: “Our Committee will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in research and development programs by providing effective oversight of existing programs and by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs and streamlining programs where needed.”

Sensenbrenner will play a supporting role to Hall. Sensenbrenner is currently the second most senior Republican on the panel. His promotion to Vice Chair may be a result of the discontinuation of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, where he is the Ranking Republican.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will serve as the Ranking Member of the House Science and Technology Committee. The current top Democrat, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), is retiring. Johnson’s interests in science policy include science education, increasing diversity within science, and space exploration. In a statement released last month, Johnson outlined her priorities for the committee: “As Ranking Member, I would continue to advocate for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] education, clean energy, and for scientific research to improve the lives of all Americans….I would continue to emphasize the need to invest in basic scientific research and development to support our nation’s energy independence and security, to create new technologies, industries, and jobs that will catalyze our nation’s embattled middle class and fulfill a mission for the U.S. to lead the world in clean technology.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) will serve as the new Chairman for the House Appropriations Committee. Rogers defeated bids by two other Republicans in his quest for the committee’s top position, including a bid by the current Ranking Member Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). The Republican Steering Committee did not grant Lewis an exemption from the House GOP’s rule that Republicans may only hold the top committee spot (Chairman or Ranking Member) for six years. Rogers has pledged to ban earmarks in appropriations bills starting in fiscal year 2012, and is also considering voting on the federal budget on an agency by agency basis, rather than grouping agencies into 12 appropriations bills.

The top ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee is likely to be Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). Chairman David Obey (D-WI), the current head of the panel, is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress. Obey has served as the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee since 1994. Dicks has previously served as Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, where he championed increased funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. He currently serves as Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) will be the next Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Hastings has served as the panel’s Ranking Minority Member for two years. Although the environmental legislation he sponsored in the 111th Congress was mainly related to issues specific to Washington state, Hastings has outlined a broad agenda for the next session of Congress. “Like all committees, one of our top priorities on the Natural Resources Committee will be cutting spending and bringing fiscal sanity back to Washington, D.C.,” Hastings said in a statement to the press. He also plans to address job creation through increased domestic energy production and the opening of public lands.

The ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee will be Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). Although Markey has served on the committee since 1976, he has never been the senior Democrat. Markey is active on energy and climate policy, having served as Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming for the past four years. He is a co-author of House-passed comprehensive legislation to address climate change.


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