AGI Home | About AGIContact UsSearch 

Printable Version

Congress: Structure, Status and Key Committees (1/8/13)

Untitled Document





Article I of the U.S. Constitution defines the legislative branch: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” The detailed structure of Congress was left to each chamber to develop and revise as needed over time. Here the most relevant committees, subcommittees, rules and changes within Congress for the geoscience community are described and updated. For information about specific legislation discussed in Congress, visit our current issues page.

To find out when the House or the Senate is in session, click here (House, Senate) for a calendar of the First Session of the 113th Congress.

Recent Action

 

Back to top

Previous Action

Election Brings Leadership Changes to Congress (11/12)
The November election has brought changes to key leadership positions in geoscience related committees for the 113th Congress.

The Democrats, and the Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), will retain control of the Senate. Republican leadership in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will see changes as Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) retire in January. Hutchison is the ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and played a key role in securing bipartisan support for the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act in 2010 (H.R. 5116). Hutchison will be replaced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC). Snowe is the ranking member of the Ocean, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee. It is not yet known who will replace Snowe though Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) are next in line.

Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and chair of the Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Subcommittee, is retiring as well. Bingaman is currently sponsoring several bills in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources including the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2012 (S. 3469), Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (S. 2146), and the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012 (S. 2374). Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is expected to replace Bingaman as chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Wyden currently serves as chairman of the Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee.

James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Environmental and Public Works Committee will be stepping down as he has reached the six-year term limit. Infahoe will remain a member of the committee and David Vitter (R-LA) is expected to replace him as ranking member. Vittler is expected to continue Inhofe’s work on reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act in bipartisan collaboration with Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Republicans and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) will maintain control of the House with a considerable majority. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is expected to remain the House Majority Leader as well. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has announced she intends to remain in her leadership position for the 113th Congress.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will see key leadership changes. The chairman, Ralph Hall (R-TX), will be stepping down this year as he has completed his six-year term as chairman and ranking member. Three Republicans have announced their intent to serve as the next chairman: Lamar Smith (R-TX), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Recent bills sponsored by Ralph Hall include the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 6489) and the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 6564). Both bills have been introduced in the House and are awaiting further action.

Other notable leaders in the House who retired or lost their re-election include Brad Miller (D-NC), Jerry Costello (D-IL), and Ben Quayle (R-AZ) and Norm Dicks (D-WA). Brad Miller, ranking member of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, has retired after having his district redrawn. Costello, acting ranking member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Dicks, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, retired while Quayle, chair of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, lost his primary election. Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Hansen Clarke (D-MI) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO), all strong supporters of science, will not return next Congress.

 Back to top

Background

There are several key committees in the House and Senate that handle legislation that affects the geoscience community. Below is a list of those committees, followed by more detailed information about each committee, key subcommittees, and links to the official websites.

Senate Committees:

House Committees:

 
 
 

Back to top

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair
Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member
The Agriculture Committee separated from what was essentially the Commerce Committee in 1825 after senators argued that agricultural interests were distinct from and not always best served when included with Commerce. Today this committee also handles legislation covering forests, logging, and nutrition. Geoscience-related issues include investments in agricultural research primarily related to soil science, land use issues, water resource issues, and research and land use related to the Forest Service, all of which are included in the Department of Agriculture, but overlap with many agencies within the Department of the Interior.

Key subcommittees include:
Jobs, Rural Economic Growth, and Energy Innovation (Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair and John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member)
Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources (Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chair and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member)
Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research (Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair and Dick Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Senate Committee on Appropriations
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair
Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member
The Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over discretionary spending legislation in the Senate. Discretionary spending, as opposed to direct spending, requires an annual appropriation bill to disperse the funds to the different federal agencies and programs. About 40 percent of total government spending is discretionary so these committees can yield a great deal of power and control over federal priorities. Key federal agencies of interest to the geosciences include the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and programs within the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior. Click here to find out more about geoscience appropriations and the budget process. Below are the key appropriations subcommittees that handle geoscience funding.

Key subcommittees include:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chair and Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ranking Member)
Energy and Water Development (Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chair and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair
, Ranking Member
This committee covers all matters related to the Department of Commerce, which includes legislation related to programs, projects, and research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. The committee also has jurisdiction over independent agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  The committee covers much of the Earth and space sciences, which should help the legislators to integrate the work between these agencies and programs.

Key subcommittees include:
Communications and Technology (John Kerry (D-MA), Chair and Jim DeMint (R-SC), Ranking Member)
Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion (Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chair and Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member)
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard (Mark Begich (D-AK), Chair and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Ranking Member)
Science and Space (Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chair and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has jurisdiction and legislative responsibilities for all domestic energy policy, international energy affairs, emergency preparedness as it relates to energy, nuclear waste policy, privatization of natural resources, mining policy, territorial policy (including issues affecting Antarctica, the Outer Continental Shelf, and drilling leases), reclamation projects, and groundwater resources. It provides most of the jurisdiction for the Department of Energy and Department of the Interior.

Key subcommittees include:
Energy (Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair and Jim Risch (R-ID), Ranking Member)
Public Lands and Forests (Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair and John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member)
Water and Power (Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair and Mike Lee (R-UT), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair
David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member
The committee covers a wide range of environmental legislation and issues, including: policy, research and development, nuclear safety, air pollution, toxic hazards other than pesticides, solid waste disposal, environmental aspects of the Outer Continental Shelf, and water quality. The committee has oversight of all public works projects, including: flood controls and improvements, federal levee systems, dams, and bridges. In addition, the committee is responsible for issues related to job creation through the development and deployment of “green” technologies and practices. The committee has major oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Key subcommittees include:
Clean Air and Nuclear Safety (Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chair and John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member)
Green Jobs and the New Economy (Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member)
Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health (Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chair and Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ranking Member)
Transportation and Infrastructure (Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair and David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member)
Water and Wildlife (Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chair and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair
Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member
The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions manages most science education and workforce legislation in the Senate. The committee’s education priority is to meet the need for a highly skilled workforce in the changing global economy. The committee has jurisdiction over education and workforce development, including: Head Start, the No Child Left Behind Act, Higher Education, and Job and Vocational Training and the Workforce Investment Act.  It has jurisdiction over most of the Department of Education.

Key subcommittees include:
Children and Families (Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair and Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member)
Employment and Workplace Safety (Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Agriculture
Frank Lucas (R-OK), Chair
Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member
The Committee on Agriculture has a varied set of responsibilities, many of which interest the geoscience community. The issues include renewable energy, rural development, disaster assistance, conservation, agricultural research and development, and forestry. In particular, the Conservation Subcommittee is committed to soil, water, and resource conservation, watershed programs, and bioenergy. The Oversight Subcommittee includes jurisdiction over forestry and forest reserves.

Key subcommittees include:
Conservation, Energy, and Forestry (G.T. Thompson (R-PA), Chair and Tim Holden (D-PA), Ranking Member)
Department Operations, Oversight, and Credit (Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Chair and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Appropriations
Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chair
Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member
The Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over discretionary spending legislation in the House. Discretionary spending, as opposed to direct spending, requires an annual appropriation bill to disperse the funds to the different federal agencies and programs. About 40 percent of the total government spending is discretionary so this committee can yield a great deal of power and control over federal priorities. Key agencies of interest to the geosciences receiving funding from these committees include the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and programs within the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior. Click here to find out more about geoscience appropriations and the budget process. Below are the appropriations subcommittees that handle geoscience funding.

Key subcommittees include:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chair and Sam Farr (D-CA), Ranking Member)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chair and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Ranking Member)
Energy and Water Development (Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chair and Pete Visclosky (D-IN), Ranking Member)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chair and Jim Moran (D-VA), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Education and the Workforce
John Kline (R-MN), Chair
George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member
The Education and Labor Committee is responsible for ensuring that students and workers can advance in a changing school system and a competitive global economy.
The committee has jurisdiction over education and workforce programs, including: elementary and secondary school initiatives, teacher quality and training programs, higher education programs, and job training and workforce development initiatives.
Of interest to the geoscience community, the committee has oversight over programs encouraging investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational and vocational fields.

Key committees include:
Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education (Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chair and Dale Kildee (D-MI), Ranking Member) 
Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions (Phil Roe (R-TN), Chair and Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Ranking Member) 
Higher Education and Workforce Training (Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair and Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Ranking Member)
Workforce Protections (Tim Walberg (R-MI), Chair and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair
Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member
The Committee on Energy and Commerce has a broad area of focus of which the geosciences are concerned mainly with the energy side. This committee has control of legislation that relates to general energy policy, including the exploration, production, storage, conservation, and regulation of all energy resources (conventional, unconventional, and renewable). The committee also regulates nuclear energy research and the development of reactors. This committee will play a role in drafting climate change legislation as well.

Key subcommittees include:
Energy and Power (Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chair and Bobby Rush (D-IL), Ranking Member)
Communications and Technology (Greg Walden (R-OR), Chair and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member)
Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade (Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Chair and G.K. Butterfield, Jr. (D-NC), Ranking Member)
Oversight and Investigations (Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chair and Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Natural Resources
Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chair
Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member
The Committee on Natural Resources has oversight of ocean, mineral, water, land, and energy resources. It has budget oversight of related programs within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Mineral Management Service (MMS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, and Bureau of Reclamation. The committee will focus on planning for the potential impacts of climate change on natural resources. Related to this goal the committee will work on protecting and sustainably using the nation’s natural resources by managing coastal areas, improving ocean governance (especially as it relates to the offshore resources), advancing innovation in ocean research and technology, reforming the 1872 Mining Law, regulating coal ash, exploring drilling and renewable energy options on the Outer Continental Shelf, examining oil shale development, developing carbon sequestration options, and overseeing water management and aging water infrastructure.

Key subcommittees include:
Energy and Mineral Resources (Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Chair and Rush Holt (D-NJ), Ranking Member)
Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs (John Fleming, Jr. (R-LA), Chair and Donna Christensen (D-VI), Ranking Member)
National Parks, Forests and Public Lands (Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chair and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member)
Water and Power (Tom McClintock (R-CA), Chair and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member
The Science and Technology Committee jurisdiction encompasses all non-defense federal scientific research and development. The committee covers portions of a number of federal agencies, including: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The proposed agenda for the current committee will focus on technological innovations and developments in the energy sector as a way to strengthen the economy and U.S. competitiveness, which includes helping start the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) program. The committee will could also be influential in tackling all encompassing issues facing Congress, like emissions regulations.

Key subcommittees include:
Energy (Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chair)
Environment (Andy Harris (R-MD), Chair)
Research (Larry Buchson (R-IN), Chair)
Space (Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Chair)
Technology (Thomas Massie (R-KY), Chair)
Investigations (Paul Broun (R-GA), Chair)

Back to Committee List

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
John Mica (R-FL), Chair
Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over some geoscience related topics, including: federal management of natural disasters, flood control and improvements, pollution of coastal and inland waters, public works dams and bridges, and water power. The committee is concerned with reauthorizing the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and enacting a Water Resources Development Act.

Key subcommittees include:
Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Material (Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chair and Corrine Brown (D-FL), Ranking Member)
Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment (Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Chair and Tim Bishop (D-NY), Ranking Member)

Back to Committee List

Contributed by Wilson Bonner, AGI Geoscience Policy Staff.

Background section includes material from the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate, and relevant committee and subcommittee websites.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Geoscience Policy.

Last updated on January 8, 2013

 

  Information Services |Geoscience Education |Public Policy |Environmental
Geoscience
 |
Publications |Workforce |AGI Events


agi logo

© 2014. All rights reserved.
American Geosciences Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302-1502.
Please send any comments or problems with this site to: webmaster@agiweb.org.
Privacy Policy