This week, Republican and Democratic caucuses from the House of Representatives chose their new committee leaderships for the 112th Congress.
For chair of the powerful Appropriations committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) beat out Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the current ranking member. Lewis had hoped to continue in his leadership position by obtaining a special waiver of House Republican rules that limit leadership terms to six years, but was denied. Rogers has vowed to roll non-defense discretionary spending back to FY 2008 levels. On the Democratic side, Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) was chosen as ranking member.
The Energy and Commerce committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Institutes of Health, will see Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) inherit the chairmanship from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who will be relegated to ranking member. Upton has vowed to repeal the health care law passed in 2009, and may also take on embryonic stem cell research, stating his intention to ensure “that no federal funds are used for abortion.” In one of his first acts, Upton chose Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) to be chair of the Health subcommittee directly overseeing the NIH.
Finally, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) will assume the leadership role for the House Committee on Science and Technology, overseer of the National Science Foundation. Hall is a long-time member of the committee, often seen as the most bipartisan in the entire legislative branch. However, Hall has worried some with his claims doubting the veracity of climate change, and has promised to hold hearings to “find out what the real facts are.”
After retaining the majority in the Senate in last month’s elections, Democrats will retain the same committee leadership in the upper chamber. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) will be chair of the Appropriations committee, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will be chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee that oversees the NIH, and John Rockefeller IV (D- W.Va.) will be chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee that oversees the NSF.
Full committee memberships and subcommittee leadership positions will be filled out before the new Congress begins on Jan. 5, 2011.
ASBMB will be meeting with the new Congress to continue to advocate for investment in basic scientific research, but we also need your help! Write to your Congressional representatives to encourage them to support science!