SPECIAL UPDATE: New Leadership and New Committee Chairs for the 110th Congress
This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.
When 110th Congress convenes in January, the Democrats will be in the majority in both chambers, the leadership of all of the committees will switch, and there will be new chairs. Many of the new chairs are senior members of Congress, who are well known and have plenty of experience with congressional rules and procedures. In addition to changes in the committees, there will be changes in the leadership of Congress and both parties.
Here is a list of the new Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress plus the new Democratic members of relevant Senate committees. In addition, a biographical summary of the new Democratic leadership in Congress and the new Democratic chairs of committees of interest to the Earth science community have been included. Our brief and non-comprehensive summary focuses on policy issues of interest to the Earth science community.
Senate Democratic Leadership for the 110th Congress
Senate Republican Leaders 110th Congress
New Democratic Leadership in the 110th Congress
House Republican Leadership in the 110th Congress
Majority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV), 66, is characterized as a straightforward hard worker, who prefers quiet compromise rather than publicized, loud debates. He is strongly opposed to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project, he supports brownfields legislation, and he supports improvements to the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. He has been known to support the interests of ranchers and miners regarding land-use rights, given the needs and interests of Nevada. Reid firmly believes that the nation needs to take necessary steps towards foreign oil independence, while providing citizens with temporary relief from high energy prices. As a critic of the No Child Left Behind Act, he advocates for improvements to the bill. He has supported the National Competitiveness Investment Act in a bipartisan fashion with the rest of the Senate leadership. Reid was born in Searchlight, NV. His father was a hard-rock miner. He received a B.A. in political science from Utah State University and received a law degree from George Washington University. He has worked as a Capitol Hill police officer, an attorney, a state representative, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and then as a member of the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 1986.
Assistant Majority Leader: Richard "Dick" Durbin (D-IL), 62, is a good debater, often a spokesman for the Democratic party and very knowledgeable about Senate rules and procedures. He supports the farming community and promotes the use of ethanol for energy. Recently he opposed the Senate offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico bill, because he would like to see a comprehensive energy plan that promotes conservation with energy exploration. Durbin has repeatedly offered legislation to increase vehicle energy efficiency standards, he has fought against the Department of Defense regarding wind farms in Illinois, and he has been a leader on legislation to channel record oil company profits to Americans and to make it illegal for oil companies to alter supplies to drive up prices at the pump. On education issues, Durbin has targeted unfair lending practices for college tuition, has criticized cuts to student aid programs and in his bill entitled "Reverse the Raid on Student Aid" and has supported reduction of interest rates on student loans and other incentives. Durbin was born in East St. Louis, IL. He received his B.S. in international affairs and economics and his law degree from Georgetown. He served as a legislative aide, attorney and member of the House of Representatives before taking over the Senate seat vacated by Paul Simon in 1997.
Budget: Kent Conrad (D-ND), 58, is a moderate and fiscal conservative who has worked tirelessly for reductions to the federal budget deficit, particularly targeting foreign debt. Conrad supports energy efficiency, clean coal technology, biofuels and wind energy. North Dakota has been estimated to have the greatest potential for wind power in the nation. He also favors releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserves to moderate price fluctuations and providing incentives to energy companies to produce more oil domestically. His ideas are spelled out in legislation he introduced in 2006 called the Breaking Our Long-term Dependence, or BOLD, Energy Act. Conrad has some concerns about the No Child Left Behind Act and believes the objectives of the act will require more funding. He was not among the 40 senators who co-sponsored the National Competitiveness Investment Act and he has not supported previous competitiveness legislation. Conrad was born in Bismarck, ND. Conrad received an A.B. in political science from Stanford and an MBA from George Washington University. He was a personnel director and state tax commissioner before joining the Senate.
Appropriations: Robert Byrd (D-WV), 88, has been in Congress longer than any other member and knows the rules and procedures very well, because he authored many of them. Born into poverty, he has become one of the most powerful senators in the country over his 47-years of service, although his age and health are becoming more of a concern. The 110th Congress will mark his third chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Byrd introduced the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act with Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) which would commit $4 billion over the next ten years to expand technology research on climate change and create an administrative structure designed specifically to deal with the issue. He has not been a co-sponsor of any of the competitiveness legislation introduced by the 109th Congress, but he did support the No Child Left Behind Act. He would like to see more funding for the NCLB Act and for other education programs, including the Byrd Scholarships for higher education. Byrd was born in North Wilkesboro, NC. He received his B.A. in political science from Marshall University and his law degree from American University. After graduating first in his high school class, Byrd worked for 12 years to earn enough money for college; he was a gas station attendant, grocery store clerk, shipyard welder and a butcher. His first elected office was in the state legislature. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives for six years before moving to the Senate.
Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science: Elected to Congress in 1976, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is known as a tough and persistent negotiator, a hard worker and a strong supporter of science. She is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and most likely to assume the chair for the science subcommittee. Mikulski does not have a stated opinion on energy policy on her web site, however, she has opposed legislation to open up additional area to offshore drilling in the past. On the environment, Mikulski has fought to reduce air pollution, clean up water pollution and wetlands and protect national health and drinking water. She is a leading defender of the Chesapeake Bay, allotting $20 million each year to mitigate pollution in the area. Mikulski strongly supports NASA and the National Institutes of Health, both of which have facilities in Maryland. She has been working hard to double the National Science Foundation budget and has been a strong supporter of the National Competitiveness Investment Act and other competitiveness legislation. Mikulski was born in Baltimore, MD. Although she initially wanted to be a chemist, she shifted majors in college and received her B.A. degree in sociology from Mount Saint Agnes College and an MSW from the University of Maryland. She was a social worker, activist, Baltimore city councilor and member of the House of Representatives before becoming the first woman elected outright to a seat in the Senate.
Energy and Natural Resources: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), 63, has been described as cerebral, logical and unselfish. He prefers to have policy discussions rather than publicity events. Bingaman helped to write the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and works well with his fellow statesman, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) who is the chair of the committee for the 109th Congress. Bingaman would like to have additional incentives in U.S. energy policy, such as tax benefits for conservation and more alternative energy options. Both New Mexican senators support the national energy laboratories within the state and elsewhere. Bingaman has opposed new offshore drilling legislation. He is a strong advocate for nuclear energy, clean coal and tougher vehicle emissions standards. Bingaman supports science through competitiveness legislation, including the National Competitiveness Investment Act, and also supports training students to work in technology-related fields. He was born in El Paso, TX, but grew up in the mining town of Silver City, NM. His father was a science professor at Western New Mexico University, and his mother taught in the public schools. He received an A.B. in government from Harvard and a law degree from Stanford. He was a lawyer and the attorney general of New Mexico before joining the Senate.
Commerce, Science and Transportation: Daniel Inouye (D-HA), 82, has been described as a very private man and a quiet negotiator. He has been in Congress longer than Hawaii has been a state, serving as its territorial legislator initially and he is the third most senior senator behind Senators Byrd and Kennedy. He has a close working relationship with Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), partly because of their common interest in meeting the needs of their native American constituents and partly because they have served together for a long time as the senior senators from the two newest and only non-contiguous states. Inouye has supported legislation to increase offshore drilling in Alaska. Inouye supports science, particularly ocean and geologic sciences related to the needs of the Hawaiian Islands. He is also a strong supporter of competitiveness legislation, including the National Competitiveness Investment Act. Inouye was born in Honolulu, HI. He wanted to become a surgeon, but lost an arm while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After spending some time in recuperation with future Senator Bob Dole, Inouye received an A.B. in government from the University of Hawaii and a law degree from George Washington University. He was the territorial legislator and the first member of the House of Representatives for Hawaii before being elected to the Senate in 1962.
Environment and Public Works: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), 65, is considered one of the most liberal and outspoken members of the Senate and a strong advocate for the environment. She opposed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and opposes more offshore oil drilling. She supports environmental protection and toughening standards for water and air quality. She would like to make sure that polluters pay for the clean-up of Superfund sites and other polluted areas. She supports the California plan to reduce carbon emissions and plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate. She has already teamed up with Senators Bingaman and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to ask President Bush to work with Congress on climate change legislation. In addition, Boxer and the Democratic party have created two new subcommittees on climate change with the Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer supports science and has co-sponsored competitiveness legislation, including the National Competitiveness Investment Act. Boxer is also an advocate for education and supported the No Child Left Behind Act, though like many Democrats in the Senate, she believes the act is significantly under funded. Boxer was born in Brooklyn, NY. She received a B.A. in economics from Brooklyn College. She was a congressional aide, journalist, stockbroker and a member of the House of Representatives before becoming a Senator in 1993.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Edward Kennedy (D-MA), 74, has held office in Congress for 44 years. Kennedy has a plan for energy independence by 2020 on his web site. He has opposed legislation for more offshore drilling in the past. He supports investment in alternative energy sources and stricter regulations on mining and gas companies. Kennedy helped to craft the No Child Left Behind Act, but has since criticized what he considers neglect on the Administration's part to provide promised resources to support testing requirements. Recently, he co-sponsored the National Competitiveness Investment Act, meant to improve funding for science research and education. He was born in Boston MA the youngest child of the famous Kennedy family. He received an A.B. in government from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He served in the U.S. Army and was the Suffolk County assistant district attorney before being elected to fill President John F. Kennedy's vacated Senate seat in 1962.
Speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), 66, is soon to be the nation's first female leader in Congress and the most powerful woman in U.S. history because she will be third in line to the presidency. She has been an effective party activist and she has the reputation for an uncanny ability to unify a disparate group with competing interests. Pelosi's agenda for the 110th Congress is the House Democratic party agenda. On energy, the Democrats have developed a "New Direction for America's Energy Policy" to punish gasoline price gouging, eliminate tax breaks and incentives for oil companies, enhance investments and incentives for biofuels, enhance investments and incentives for alternative energy resources and promote energy conservation, particularly through improved vehicle efficiency. The tax break for geological studies for oil exploration would be targeted for elimination and the Democrats would generally target other incentives for larger oil companies rather than incentives for smaller companies. On science and education, the House Democrats have developed an "Innovation Agenda" to keep America competitive in the 21st century. The agenda includes creating an educated and skilled workforce in science, engineering, math and technology; investing in sustained federal research and development initiatives that promote public-private partnerships, and achieving energy independence in 10 years. Some specific goals to achieve this agenda include doubling the budget of the National Science Foundation; creating regional centers of excellence in research; making college-tuition tax-deductible and providing scholarships, both for students in science, math, engineering and technology; and providing incentives for science, engineering, math and technology teachers, who are or will be teaching in grades K through 12. Pelosi was born in Baltimore, MD. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro was the mayor of Baltimore and a congressman. Pelosi received her A.B. in government from Trinity College in D.C. She was a public relations consultant, chairwoman of the California Democratic Party, senatorial campaign committee finance chairwoman and a homemaker before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1987. She represents the 8th district of California which includes most of the city of San Francisco. The major industries in the 8th are tourism, financial services and health care.
Appropriations: David Obey (D-WI), 68, is a proponent of fiscal discipline and has tried to curb the Administration's spending on occasion. He is noted for his intelligence, "irascible disposition" and legislative skill. Obey chaired the Appropriations Committee for nine months in 1994 and was able to help ensure that all of the budget bills became law by the start of the fiscal year. Since then, every budget appropriations cycle has been completed after the start of the fiscal year. Obey called for action on global warming on Earth Day 2006 and has criticized the censorship of NASA climate scientist, James Hansen. Obey was born in Okmulgee, OK. He received a B.S. and a M.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin. He was a real estate broker and state legislator before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1969. He represents the 7th district of Wisconsin, which includes Wausau, Superior and Stevens Point in the northwestern corner of the state. The major industries in the 7th are agriculture, paper and manufacturing.
Education and Workforce: George Miller (D-CA), 61, has the keen ability to cooperate with parties that hold competing interests. He has also been called a "liberal firebrand" whose priorities include education and the environment. Miller has worked with current Chairman John A. Boehner (R-OH) on the House Education and Workforce Committee to reduce hostility and make the committee more productive. He helped create the House version of the Higher Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act. Miller was born in Richmond, CA. He received a B.A. in political science from San Francisco State University and a law degree from University of California, Davis. He was a lawyer and state legislative aide before being elected to the House in 1974. Miller represents the 7th district of California, the northeastern Bay Area, including Vallejo and Richmond. The major industries in the 7th include petrochemicals, steel, biotechnology, agriculture and health care.
Energy and Commerce: John
Dingell (D-MI), 80, has the longest tenure in the House of Representatives
and is a firm believer in congressional oversight. During his 51-year
congressional career, he has served as Chairman of the Energy and
Commerce Committee for 14 years before the Republican party became
the majority. He supports the continued development of ethanol and
other biofuels. Dingell helped write the 1990 Clean Air Act and is
also a strong supporter of the Clean Water Act. In addition he is
known for his support of wildlife conservation. He supports efforts
to sustain the Great Lakes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is
located in Ann Arbor. Dingell was born in Colorado Springs, CO. He
served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He received a B.S. in
chemistry and a law degree from Georgetown University. He was a county
prosecutor before being elected to Congress in 1955. He represents
the 15th district of Michigan, which includes Ann Arbor, Taylor and
parts of Dearborn. The major industries in the 15th are auto and parts
manufacturing, higher education, medical research and steel.
Science: Bart Gordon (D-TN) has worked with current Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) to create an atmosphere of cooperation and non-partisan accomplishment in the House Committee on Science. Besides becoming the chairman of the House Science Committee in the 110th Congress, Gordon will continue to be a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He is a strong advocate for alternative fuel measures to decrease the nation's dependency on oil. He opposes putting nuclear waste storage facilities in Tennessee. Gordon sponsored three bills at the end of 2005 that would have implemented many of the recommendations of the National Academies report, 'Rising Above the Gathering Storm." He is a strong advocate for increased funding for science and engineering, particularly a doubling of the budget of the National Science Foundation over 5 years. Gordon's website provides a list of science and math resources from federal agencies for teachers and students in grades K through 12. Gordon was born in Murfreesboro, TN. He received a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University, served in the Army Reserve and received a law degree from University of Tennessee. He was a lawyer and state party official before being elected to Congress in 1984. Gordon represents the 6th district of Middle Tennessee - Murfreesboro, with district growth spilling over from the Nashville population boom. Major industries in the 6th include auto and textile manufacturing, book and video distribution and tobacco.
Special update prepared by Linda Rowan, Directer of AGI Government Affairs and Rachel Bleshman, AGI/AAPG Fall 2006 Intern.
Sources: National Journal, Congressional Quarterly, Washington Post, New York Times, E&E Daily, Science, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and Thomas.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted November 21, 2006