Sunday, July 26, 2009

Considered Forthwith: Armed Services committees

Welcome to the 18th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

This week, I will look at the House Armed Services Committee and Senate Armed Forces Committees. Obviously, these members are the ones to contact to advance the bill that would repeal the "Don't ask/don't tell policy." These are also the committees that need a proverbial kick in the pants to advance legislation that would close Gitmo. More information below.

Committee membership

First, here are the members of the House Committee:

Democrats: Ike Skelton, Chairman, Missouri; John M. Spratt, Jr., South Carolina; Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas; Gene Taylor, Mississippi; Neil Abercrombie, Hawai'i; Silvestre Reyes, Texas; Vic Snyder, Arkansas; Adam Smith, Washington; Loretta Sanchez, California; Mike McIntyre, North Carolina; Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania; Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey; Susan A. Davis, California; James R. Langevin, Rhode Island; Rick Larsen, Washington; Jim Cooper, Tennessee; Jim Marshall, Georgia; Madeleine Bordallo, Guam; Brad Ellsworth, Indiana; Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania; Hank Johnson, Georgia; Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire; Joe Courtney, Connecticut; David Loebsack, Iowa; Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania; Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona; Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts; Glenn Nye, Virginia; Chellie Pingree, Maine; Larry Kissell, North Carolina; Martin Heinrich, New Mexico; Frank Kratovil, Maryland; Eric Massa, New York; Bobby Bright, Alabama; Scott Murphy, New York; Dan Boren, Oklahoma

Republicans: John M. McHugh, Ranking Member, New York; Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland; Buck McKeon, California; Mac Thornberry, Texas; Walter B. Jones, North Carolina; Todd Akin, Missouri; Randy Forbes, Virginia; Jeff Miller, Florida; Joe Wilson, South Carolina; Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey; Rob Bishop, Utah; Mike Turner, Ohio; John Kline, Minnesota; Mike Rogers, Alabama; Trent Franks, Arizona; Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington; Mike Conaway, Texas; Doug Lamborn, Colorado; Rob Wittman, Virginia; Mary Fallin, Oklahoma; Duncan D. Hunter, California; John C. Fleming, Louisiana; Mike Coffman, Colorado; Tom Rooney, Florida

Here are the members of the Senate committee:

Democrats: Carl Levin (Michigan), Chairman; Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts); Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia); Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut); Jack Reed (Rhode Island); Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Evan Bayh (Indiana); Jim Webb (Virginia); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Mark Udall (Colorado); Kay R. Hagan (North Carolina); Mark Begich (Alaska); Roland W. Burris (Illinois)

Republicans: John McCain (Arizona), Ranking Member; James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma); Jeff Sessions (Alabama); Saxby Chambliss (Georgia); Lindsey Graham (South Carolina); John Thune (South Dakota); Mel Martinez (Florida); Roger F. Wicker (Mississippi); Richard Burr (North Carolina); David Vitter (Louisiana); Susan M. Collins (Maine)

These are relatively large committees for several reasons. For one thing, the military is the largest bureaucracy within the federal government, so the oversight and law-making functions are important.

More importantly, this is the authorizing committee for defense projects. For more background about the difference between authorizing and appropriating, check out my diary on the Appropriations Committees. In a nutshell, authorizing committees decide which projects to pursue while the appropriations committees decide whether or not to fund them. This is particularly important since the defense budget represents more than half of the government's discretionary spending.

Senate Committee Assignments

The House committees are fairly flexible in terms of how large they can be. As a result, the more prominent committees tend to have large memberships in order to accommodate members' preferences. Senate assignments rules, on the other hand, are very formalized. The two parties make their assignments and those are formally approved early in the session.

All of the Senate committees are classified as Super A, A, B, or C depending on the prominence and workload of the committee. Armed Services is one of the Democrats' five Super A committees. The others are Finance; Appropriations; Foreign Relations' and Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Republicans do not count Commerce, Science, and Transportation to be a Super A committee.

Chamber rules state that Senators are limited to service on two Class Super A/ Class A committees and one Class B committee. There are no limits on service on the Class C committees. Both Parties' rules limit members to service on only one Super A committee. For more about committee and chair assignments, check out the Senate's web page on these rules.


Here is the formal jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee:

(1) Ammunition depots; forts; arsenals; and Army, Navy, and Air Force reservations and establishments.
(2) Common defense generally.
(3) Conservation, development, and use of naval petroleum and oil shale reserves.
(4) The Department of Defense generally, including the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, generally.
(5) Interoceanic canals generally, including measures relating to the maintenance, operation, and administration of interoceanic canals.
(6) Merchant Marine Academy and State Maritime Academies.
(7) Military applications of nuclear energy.
(8) Tactical intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the Department of Defense.
(9) National security aspects of merchant marine, including financial assistance for the construction and operation of vessels, maintenance of the U.S. shipbuilding and ship repair industrial base, cabotage, cargo preference, and merchant marine officers and seamen as these matters relate to the national security.
(10) Pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the armed forces.
(11) Scientific research and development in support of the armed services.
(12) Selective service.
(13) Size and composition of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
(14) Soldiers’ and sailors’ homes.
(15) Strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

And here's the Senate Committee's official jurisdiction:

1. Aeronautical and space activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems or military operations.

2. Common defense.

3. Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force, generally.

4. Maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal, including administration, sanitation, and government of the Canal Zone.

5. Military research and development.

6. National security aspects of nuclear energy.

7. Naval petroleum reserves, except those in Alaska.

8. Pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the Armed Forces, including overseas education of civilian and military dependents.

9. Selective service system.

10. Strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

(2) Such committee shall also study and review, on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to the common defense policy of the United States, and report thereon from time to time.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I won't get into the politics of DADT, except to say that I support a repeal and allowing gay and bisexual soldiers to serve in the military. For one thing, there are issues of equality to consider. For another, the military has very few Arabic and Farsi speakers and too many have been discharged under DADT.

Homosexuality in the U.S. military goes back to the Revolutionary War when Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin was drummed out of the service for attempting to engage in sodomy with another solider. For many decades, "sodomy" was classified as a crime under the Articles of War. In 1942, the policy of discharge for homosexuality was officially codified. Depending on the circumstances, soldiers discharged after being caught engaging in homosexual activity often could not collect veterans' benefits. Draftees during the Vietnam era sometimes claimed to be gay to avoid the draft.


One of Bill Clinton's early efforts was to repeal the policy and allow gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly. Naturally the homophobes balked. The eventual compromise -- DADT -- was authored by Colin Powell and included in the Fiscal Year 1994 Defense Authorization Bill.

The repeal movement's current champion is Rep. Patrick Murphy (Pa-08). The former U.S. Army lawyer has introduced legislation in the last three Congresses to overturn DADT and allow gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly. Currently the bill is in the House Subcommittee on Military personnel. Murphy is a member and Susan A. Davis of California is the subcommittee chair. More information on the subcommittees appears below. Murphy's bill has 164 co-sponsors, but it is more important to get Chairwoman Davis to bring the bill to a markup/vote in the subcommittee and get Chairman Skelton to do the same in the full committee.

Other current issues

House Committee hearings: The House Committee has several hearings scheduled for this week, including professional development in the military, psychological stress of members of the military, and an assessment of the U.S.-Russian security arrangement.

Senate Committee hearings: This Week, the Senate Committee is dealing with several nominations, including Secretary of the Army.

Update: How did I miss this? The nominee for Secretary of the Army is John McHugh, the ranking member of the House Committee.

Gitmo: Both committees are dealing with the question of what to do with the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this month, the Senate Committee received testimony on the legal issues surrounding holding trials for the prisoners. Here is a link to the testimony and a webcast of the hearing. The House Committee last week marked up House Resolution 602 which would:

Requesting that the President and directing that the Secretary of Defense transmit to the House of Representatives all information in their possession relating to specific communications regarding detainees and foreign persons suspected of terrorism.

In addition, there are numerous bills in the two committees relating to the closing of Gitmo. The problem, of course, is that he have to find homes for the innocent and hold trials for the rest. Since the Bush Administration did exactly zero on this issue, this might unfortunately take a while. This is an issue we need to continue to pursue. We need to identify, try and punish the guilty and release the innocents.

Defense Authorization Act: Each year, Congress must pass the Defense Authorization Act, which sets the spending priorities for the Department of Defense for the year and make any Congressionally-directed policy changes like it did with DADT. (It will be up to the appropriations committees to actually fund those programs). The Senate passed the bill on Thursday. This was the bill that cut the authorization for those F-22s and expanded the hate crimes law. The House has already passed their version with significant differences. This bill will got to conference committee and a final vote will probably take place this fall. A full summary of the House version is on the committee's home page and here is the easy to understand round up from Congress Matters.


Here is a brief run down of the subcommittees.

House subcommittees:


Military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance issues and programs. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for all military construction, installations and family housing issues, including the base closure process, and energy policy and programs of the Department of Defense.

Chair: Solomon Ortiz, Texas
Ranking member: J. Randy Forbes, Virginia

Seapower and Expeditionary Forces:

Navy and Marine Corps acquisition programs (except strategic weapons, space, special operations, and information technology programs) and Naval Reserve equipment. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for maritime programs under the jurisdiction of the Committee as delineated in paragraphs 5, 6, and 9 of clause 1(c) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives.

Chair: Gene Taylor, Mississippi
Ranking member: W. Todd Akin, Missouri

Air and Land Forces:

All Army and Air Force acquisition programs (except strategic missiles, special operations and information technology programs). In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for deep strike bombers and related systems, National Guard and Army and Air Force reserve modernization, and ammunition programs.

Chair: Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii
Ranking member: Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland

Oversight and Investigations:

Any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee, subject to the concurrence of the Chairman of the Committee and, as appropriate, affected subcommittee chairmen. The subcommittee shall have no legislative jurisdiction.

Chair: Vic Snyder, Arkansas
Ranking member: Rob Wittman, Virginia

Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities:

Department of Defense counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism programs and initiatives. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for Special Operations Forces; science and technology policy, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and information technology programs; force protection policy; homeland defense and consequence management programs within the Committee’s jurisdiction; and related intelligence support.

Chair: Adam Smith, Washington
Ranking member: Jeff Miller, Florida

Strategic Forces:

Strategic weapons (except deep strike bombers and related systems), space programs, ballistic missile defense, intelligence policy and national programs, and Department of Energy national security programs (except non-proliferation programs).

Chair: Jim Langevin, Rhode Island
Ranking member: Michael Turner, Ohio

Military Personnel:

Military personnel policy, reserve component integration and employment issues, military health care, military education, and POW/MIA issues. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for Morale, Welfare and Recreation issues and programs.

Chair: Susan A. Davis, California
Ranking member: Joe Wilson, South Carolina

Source for jurisdictions

Senate Subcommittees
Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Readiness and Management Support
Strategic Forces

I don't have jurisdiction statements for the Senate subcommittees, but the membership lists are available at the link above.

For more about other committees, check out my previous work:
Small Business Committees
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

Note: Blogger Union rules state that, after doing this for 18 weeks with no pay, I get next weekend off. I almost feel like a Senator taking August off.

Crossposted on Daily Kos, Congress Matters, Docudharma, and my own blog.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Considered Forthwith: Small Business Committees

Welcome to the 17th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

This week I'm examining the House Committee on Small Business and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. These are not the most glamorous committee assignments, but anyone who owns, plans to own, or works for a small business should pay attention.

Here are the committee members:

House Committee on Small Business:

Democrats: Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez of New York; Dennis Moore of Kansas; Heath Shuler of North Carolina; Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania; Kurt Schrader of Oregon; Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona; Glenn Nye of Virginia; Mike Michaud of Maine; Melissa Bean of Illinois; Daniel Lipinski of Illinois; Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania; Yvette Clarke of New York; Brad Ellsworth of Indiana; Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania; Bobby Bright of Alabama; Parker Griffith of Alabama; Deborah Halvorson of Illinois

Republicans: Ranking Member Sam Graves of Missouri; Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland; Todd Akin of Missouri; Steve King of Iowa; Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia; Louie Gohmert of Texas; Mary Fallin of Oklahoma; Vern Buchanan of Florida; Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri; Aaron Schock of Illinois; Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania; Mike Coffman of Colorado

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

Democrats: Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu (LA); John F. Kerry (MA); Carl Levin (MI); Tom Harkin (IA); Joseph I. Lieberman (CT); Maria Cantwell (WA); Evan Bayh (IN); Mark L. Pryor (AR); Benjamin L. Cardin (MD); Jeanne Shaheen (NH); Kay Hagan (NC)

Republicans: Ranking Member - Olympia J. Snowe (ME); Christopher S. Bond (MO); David Vitter (LA); John Thune (SD); Michael B. Enzi (WY); Johnny Isakson (GA); Roger Wicker (MS); and a Republican Leadership Designee to be named


Here is a plain language statement on the House Committee's jurisdiction:

(T)he House Small Business Committee is charged with assessing and investigating the problems of small businesses and examining the impact of general business practices and trends on small businesses. The committee has oversight and legislative authority over the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its programs, as well as provides assistance to and protection of small businesses, including financial aid and the participation of small business enterprises in federal procurement and government contracts.

And the Senate committee's jurisdiction:

1) Oversight of the Small Business Administration

2) Consideration of Non-SBA Legislation

Any proposed legislation reported by the Committee on Small Business and Enrepreneurship that relates to matters other than the functions of the SBA shall, at the request of the chairman of any standing committee having jurisdiction over the subject matter extraneous to the functions of the SBA, be considered and reported by such standing committee prior to its consideration by the Senate; and likewise measures reported by other committees directly relating to the SBA shall, at the request of the chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, be referred to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship for its consideration of any portions of the measure dealing with the SBA, and be reported by this committee prior to its consideration by the Senate.

3) Study of American Small Businesses

Notice that the main function of the committee is to oversee the Small Business Administration. This is an independent Executive Branch agency with a substantial, though largely invisible, influence.

Small Business Administration

The American economy is very dependent upon small business. Here are some statistics from the Census Bureau on the sheer number of small businesses and the number of people who work for them. Almost all of the employers in the United States are classified as small business and about half of all American workers are employed by a small business. A small business is generally defined as having few than 500 employees and less than $7 million in annual receipts. More details on limits by industry are here.

These employers are also the most vulnerable to market fluctuations. While large companies like Walmart and Microsoft can ride out economic downturns, a few bad months or one ill-conceived business expansion can put the independent bookstore or small factory out of business. As a result, the federal government offers some support for those businesses and people considering starting a business. The main government agency to help small business is the Small Business Administration. Since both committees oversee this agency, this would be a good time to investigate further what exactly they do.

SBA was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1952 and established by Congress the next year. However, the roots of small business assistance go back the the Great Depression with the establishment of President Hoover's Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in 1932. RFC was a government lender for all businesses affected by the Depression. President Roosevelt saw value in the program and made sure the RFC was well funded and staffed.

During both World War II and the Korean War, the federal government set up similar programs specifically to help small businesses be competitive with larger corporations to supply war matériel. RFC was abolished in 1952 and many of its small business activities were taken up by the newly formed SBA. The agency later expanded to offering business advice as well as awarding grants and loans.

More history on SBA is posted here.

Today, SBA offers loans and grants to small business owners and potential small business owners for start up/expansion costs. Additionally, and probably more importantly, SBA offers expertise on all areas of business (including declaring bankruptcy). These are handled through regional Small Business Development Centers like this one and the volunteer SCORE program, which offers free counseling services from other business professionals.

SBA also has a number of programs to encourage and promote business owned by women and minority groups and handles some disaster assistance.

Here is another list of resources, courtesy of the Senate Committee website. Other assistance is available at your county (or parish because Louisiana has to be different) or city economic development organization.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently reported the Financial Services Appropriations Bill, which would appropriate $697 million to SBA. This is an increase of $150 million over the last year of the Bush Administration and $22 million more than President Obama requested. More information here. The House version, meanwhile, provides $848 million, an increase of $236 million. The discrepancies will be worked out in conference committee.

I will leave it at that, but I would encourage any small business owners (including self-employed people) to explore these resources and see what might be available to you.

Other committee activities

The SBA is not the only responsibility of the committees and they have a few other things going on. There is not much in the way of upcoming hearings, but the House committee will hold a hearing called “Meeting the Needs of Small Businesses and Family Farmers in Regulating our Nation’s Waters” on Wednesday.

Here are a few other things that have been going on:

Economic stimulus program: Remember the hundreds of billions of dollars we spent to stimulate the economy? Well, there is some work going on with the two year plan to use the money. On July 15, the House Committee held a hearing to check on the progress within the small business community.

From the chairwoman's opening statement:

Six months after the Recovery Act was signed into law, the clouds are starting to clear. To begin, lending from the SBA is up dramatically. As of June, the agency had supported $6 billion in loans. Just as importantly, small business credit markets are coming back to life. Loan volumes in the secondary market jumped from under $100 million in December to $360 million last month. So things are looking up. Still, small firms continue to face challenges in accessing capital, and it would be wrong to say we are out of the woods just yet.


Small firms are already leading the Green Revolution. Increases in clean energy tax credits are helping that process along, and generating tremendous opportunity for small firms. In a recent survey by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, 75% of respondents said they had seen improved sales. Because the efficiency sector is dominated by entrepreneurs, good news for green businesses is good news for small businesses.

I have not watched the full hearing, but the highlights are available on YouTube.

Physician shortage: Health care reform, if when it happens will be irrelevant if there are no doctors to provide care. The problem is that general practice is not always lucrative enough to attract new doctors, particularly in rural areas. House Committee Chairwoman Velázquez had this to say in reaction to a July 8 hearing on the issue:

Velázquez noted that Democrats are already taking steps to help address the physician shortage. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) sets aside $2.5 billion to expand community health centers and provide educational debt relief to get thousands of new doctors and health professionals into the field faster, especially in underserved and rural areas. Nonetheless, it was clear in today’s hearing that more would need to be done to further incentivize doctors to practice medicine in those fields facing a workforce shortage.

Health care reform and the small business: The cost of health care is a particularly large concern for small businesses, particularly to the 22 million (out of 27 million small businesses) that are self employers. These are the people who start their own businesses with no employees and need to worry about health care coverage along with all of their other concerns. Between 2001 and 2008, health care premiums for the self employed increased by an unsustainable 74 percent. The Senate Committee examined this issue on July 9.

From chairwoman Landrieu's opening statement (pdf link)

Small businesses need: stable coverage that cannot be taken away; stable, affordable costs that will not increase without warning; and stable quality that assures the proper treatment is always within reach. Simply put: We need to reform our health care system to provide small businesses the opportunity to grow and prosper. The cost of doing nothing is just too great.

A link to watch the hearing is here.

I'm not entirely sure what the small business committees can directly do about this issue, but the fact that these Senators are aware of the health care issues within the small business community means that they should be cognizant of these issues during the eventual floor debate and amendment process.

Rural broadband Internet access: Another piece of the stimulus/recovery program is to spend $4 billion on improving broadband internet. This is being done through the Commerce Department and more information is available here. The deadline to apply for funds in Aug. 14. Here is Chairwoman Landrieu's statement on the program. If you are stuck with dial up internet, contact the nearest cable company and urge them to apply for the money.

For anyone lost on what I am talking about, here's the deal. In a city or town, a few dozen feet of cable can provide television and Internet service multiple customers. Therefore it is cost effective to provide cable and high speed Internet there. In rural areas, a cable company might have to run several miles of cable and poles (and do the maintenance on them) to serve a handful of -- or even one -- customer(s). Even if that happens, there are no guarantees that those customers will sign up for service anyway. That is not cost effective. This program would at least put the infrastructure in place and give residents of rural areas access to this digital playground and potential money-making tool the rest of us enjoy.

It may or may not be related, but Chairwoman Landrieu's state has a town that finally got basic phone service in 2005. To illustrate the expenses involved in such a project, the cost to provide 15 homes with phone service was $700,000.

Minority sites

I think it is a good idea to take a peek at what the Republicans are saying on their sites. On the House minority site, the latest post is spinning the July 15 hearing as a failure by President Obama and Speaker Peloisi. A tax hike on the wealthiest people to pay for health care reform will doom small business. Moreover, the recovery has not yet resulted in new jobs, therefore, it is a failure of epic proportions. Never mind that these things take time and the situation might be even worse without the recovery/stimulus money.

On the Senate minority site, Ranking member Snowe is complaining that the government has not cut energy taxes enough. She might have a point because the Republicans are looking for tax cuts to encourage more energy efficiency and green technologies. Credit where it is due, I suppose.


The Senate Committee does not have subcommittees. All of these subcommittees are under the House Committee. I could not find formal statements of jurisdiction, so we only have names and member, which are listed here. The subcommittees are:

Finance and Tax (Kurt Schrader, Chair and Vern Vern Buchanan, Ranking Member)
Contracting and Technology (Glenn Nye, Chair and Aaron Schock, Ranking Member)
Regulations and Healthcare (Kathy Dahlkemper, Chair and Lynn Westmoreland, Ranking Member)
Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade (Heath Shuler, Chair and Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ranking Member)
Investigations and Oversight (Jason Altmire, Chair and Mary Fallin, Ranking Member)

That's it for this week. We are getting close to the summer recess, so there probably won't be much going on in the committee in the near future. However, I am soliciting suggestions for next week's installment.

For more about other committees, check out my previous work:
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

Crossposted on Daily Kos, Congress Matters, and Docudharma.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Considered Forthwith: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Welcome to the 16th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

Well, DK Greenworks week has come and gone, but the group lives on. Click the link and join us. In keeping with the green theme, this week I examine the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Here are the members of the committee:

Democrats: Barbara Boxer, California, Chair; Max Baucus, Montana; Thomas R. Carper, Delaware; Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey; Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland; Bernard Sanders, Vermont; Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota; Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island; Tom Udall, New Mexico; Jeff Merkley, Oregon; Kirsten Gillibrand, New York; Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania.

Republicans: James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma, Ranking Member; George V. Voinovich, Ohio; David Vitter, Louisiana; John Barrasso, Wyoming; Mike Crapo, Idaho; Christopher S. Bond, Missouri; Lamar Alexander, Tennessee.


There is a connection between public works projects and the environment since the construction of things like highways, bridges, dams, and levees invariably affect the environment. In addition, this committee handles some economic development issues as there is often a connection among creating jobs, undertaking public works projects, and protecting the environment.

According to the committee's history, a Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds was formed in 1837 to oversee the development of federal buildings Washington, DC. During the committee reorganization of 1947, the committee came to be known as the Committee on Public Works.

As the federal government began to take on more and more public works projects, like the interstate highway system, the committee's power and relevance grew.

During the environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Congress took a greater role in environmental protection. The Public Works Committee took the lead in passing the 1970 Clean Air Act and the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The Committee got its present name and even greater authority over more policy areas, notably endangered species and civilian nuclear power, in 1977.

Somewhere along the way, the committee also picked up jurisdiction over regional economic development since this also involves public works. More on this below.

Note that there is also a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with some overlapping jurisdiction.

The Committee's formal jurisdiction is as follows:

1. The following standing committees shall be appointed at the commencement of each to act until their successors are appointed, with leave to report by bill or otherwise on matters within their respective jurisdictions:

1. Air pollution.
2. Construction and maintenance of highways.
3. Environmental aspects of Outer Continental Shelf lands.
4. Environmental effects of toxic substances, other than pesticides.
5. Environmental policy.
6. Environmental research and development.
7. Fisheries and wildlife.
8. Flood control and improvements of rivers and harbors, including environmental aspects of deepwater ports.
9. Noise pollution.
10. Nonmilitary environmental regulation and control of nuclear energy.
11. Ocean dumping.
12. Public buildings and improved grounds of the United States generally,including Federal buildings in the District of Columbia.
13. Public works, bridges, and dams.
14. Regional economic development.
15. Solid waste disposal and recycling.
16. Water pollution.
17. Water resources.

(2) Such committee shall also study and review, on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to environmental protection and resource utilization and conservation, and report thereon from time to time.

Environmental protection

I won't get into a full discussion of all of the environmental protection statutes since that could take up multiple posts, but a few laws deserve mention. The big one is the Cap and Trade Bill. Initially, there was talk that the Senate would take up the bill soon, but Chairwoman Boxer has decided to hold off consideration until after the summer break.

Other than that, a handful of major laws form the basis of U.S. environmental policy and all of them fall under this committee's jurisdiction and most are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. These laws include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. For a full list of EPA enforced laws, click here. The Fish and Wildlife Service has information about endangered species.

Two technical notes. First, most new environmental policy takes the form of amendments to existing statues rather than new laws. A major exception is the current cap and trade bill, which represents a major new program rather than tweaks to the clear air act.

Second, the regulations that polluting industries are always griping about are usually rules issued by EPA and other executive branch agencies. Rules are technical policy while the act is a more of a broad framework. Congress can pass all kinds of laws saying that we need clean water, but it is up to the EPA to write the regulations that will make that happen.

This system is problematic on one level since these rules are indeed written by Washington DC bureaucrats -- rather than elected officials -- and influenced by both industry and environmental protection lobbyists. Take a really wild guess which one has more money. This is your motivation to join and donate to groups like The Sierra Club, which recently stopped its 100th coal plant from opening, from and The World Wildlife Federation. On the other hand, members of Congress do not have the expertise to write rules/regulations, so they defer to the experts while also conducting oversight to ensure that the rules are fair and effective.

Public works

I have to giggle a little bit and then get really depressed when I hear the small government advocates complain about public works projects like highways, bridges, levee and dams. The problem, of course, is that the private sector has no particular incentive to build these things. Even if they did, the final product would serve the interests of those who built them, and those interests are not necessarily the same as the public interest.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will eventually have to take up the authorization of a new highway bill, which is currently in the House. The proposed six-year $450 billion authorization is being held up over a discussion about how to pay for it. President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would like to hold off on a new bill for 18 months to give him time to develop a comprehensive highway construction plan. The current authorization expires at the end of September. Typically when there is a hold up on a major spending authorization, Congress keeps the money flowing by doing three month reauthorizations of current funding levels. LaHood would like Congress to just accept that he needs a year and a half and just do the reauthorization all at once.

There is also the question of how to pay for the new highway bill. There has been talk of raising the 18.4 cent per gallon gasoline tax by another ten cents or more, but this might not be the best idea in a recession. Additionally, Americans are sensitive to gasoline price increases. Once again, the country and our politicians have to make the difficult decision to pay for the infrastructure we desperately need.

Economic Development

The committee has jurisdiction over regional economic development commissions. One example I will offer -- mostly because I am familiar with it -- is the Appalachian Regional Commission. ARC was created in 1965 to help this historically impoverished region to improve its economy. The region stretches from northeastern Mississippi to New York's Southern Tier. Each year, ARC awards grants to projects intended to create jobs. A major component of economic development is highway construction. Few major employers will set up shop in an area that is inaccessible to reasonable highway systems.

I am most familiar with ARC's work in converting U.S. Route 15 between Williamsport, Pa. and Corning, N.Y. This is a major north-south corridor in the region. In 1962, a group of three businessmen from Mansfield, Pa. (my last home) started a local effort to improve what was essentially a two-lane mountain road. They rallied local support and lobbied Congress to get the highway project underway. Work to expand the road to a four -lane highway did not actually begin until the 1990s and there is still a six mile section in New York that needs to be finished. Regardless, there has been a marked reduction in fatal accidents and an increase in economic activity in the region and it will eventually become part of Interstate 99.

Here is a map showing the ARC region and some of the highway projects they have helped to fund over the years:

Appalachian Regional Commission highway projects

Naming buildings

Thousands of bills are introduced each Congress. Only a couple hundred actually pass. Of these, a large number are bills to name public buildings. This committee has the responsibility for reviewing such requests. Thus, this committee sees a relatively large percentage of its bills pass.

Do you want to see your name engraved on a federal building? Don't get your hopes up. Here are the guidelines for naming buildings:

The committee may not name a building, structure or facility for any living person, except former Presidents or former Vice Presidents of the United States, former Members of Congress over 70 years of age, former Justices of the United States Supreme Court over 70 years of age, or Federal judges who are fully retired and over 75 years of age or have taken senior status and are over 75 years of age.

In other words, very few people are even eligible until they die. Sorry about that.

Current legislation and hearings

This week's three hearings will focus on the impact of global warming legislation on agriculture/forestry, transportation, and the economy respectively. The website does not indicate if live webcasts will be available, but you can watch past hearings.

In addition, the committee has quite a few pending bills. The committee's website is very useful because they actually list all of the bills that have been referred to the committee. Here are a few examples of the bills currently in committee:

A bill to prohibit the use of stimulus funds for signage indicating that a project is being carried out using those funds. -- Judd Gregg

Writer's note: errrr... Okay.

A bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to require that broadband conduit be installed as part of certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes. -- Amy Klobuchar

A bill to permit commercial vehicles at weights up to 129,000 pounds to use certain highways of the Interstate System in the State of Idaho which would provide significant savings in the transportation of goods throughout the Unites States, and for other purposes. -- Mike Crapo

A bill to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to temporarily prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from considering global climate change as a natural or manmade factor in determining whether a species is a threatened or endangered species, and for other purposes. -- John Barrasso

A resolution recognizing the need for the Environmental Protection Agency to end decades of delay and utilize existing authority under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to comprehensively regulate coal combustion waste and the need for the Tennessee Valley Authority to be a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power, and environmental stewardship. -- Barbara Boxer

Global Warming and Polar Bears

There is a debate about whether or not to list animals as endangered due to global warming. This was the genesis of Joe Scarborough hates polar bears. Global Warming is destroying the polar bears' habitat. Of course, if the government lists the polar bear as an endangered species due to global warming, then we are explicitly stating that global warming is caused by humans. Thus, despite the objections of the global warming deniers, we might actually have to address the problem.

The majority side of the committee has created an excellent page about the plight of the polar bear. Of course, there are some people who don't think global warming is real or that if is real that human activity has nothing to do with it. That calls for a polar bear face palm:

Polar Bear Facepalm Pictures, Images and Photos

And for more facepalm worthy material, we now turn to...

Minority home page

The official voice of the committee in Internet land is controlled by the majority party, but the minority gets their own page. There is a lot of lunacy here, but I want to highlight Ranking Member Inhofe's decision to post this: More Than 700 (Previously 650) International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims. There is even a prominent link on the welcome page.

To find evidence that this "report" is disingenuous, see links here, here, and here.

This quote from the first source is telling:

the list was padded with TV weathermen, economists and so on and contained very few actual climate scientists.

I won't go any further into this, but we should be aware that such misinformation is being actively promoted by the Republican Party.


The subcommittee structure changed slightly in the 111th Congress. Most notably, children's health was given its own subcommittee. Here are the committees and their jurisdictions.

Children's Health: Amy Klobuchar is the chair and Lamar Alexander is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Responsibility for policy issues in connection with protection of pregnant women, infants and children from environmental hazards

Clean Air and Nuclear Safety: Thomas R. Carper is the chair and David Vitter is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Clean Air Act, Indoor Air, Tennessee Valley Authority, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Plant Safety

Green Jobs and the New Economy: Bernie Sanders is the chair and Christopher "Kit" Bond is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Responsibility for issues related to job creation through the development and deployment of “green” technologies and practices. Issues also include federal investment in technologies and practices that reduce the government’s carbon footprint or the emission of other pollutants, including technologies and practices that enhance energy efficiency, conservation, or renewable power sources.

Oversight: Sheldon Whitehouse is the chair and John Barrasso is the ranking member. Here is the jurisdiction:

Responsibility for oversight of agencies, departments, and programs within the jurisdiction of the full committee, and for conducting investigations within such jurisdiction

Those agencies include:

The committee's oversight extends to programs in five cabinet level departments and seven independent agencies, including the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and the Coast Guard, the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the GSA's Public Buildings Service, the Council on Environmental Quality, the civil works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi River Commission, and the nonperforming functions of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health: Frank Lautenberg is the chair and James Inhofe is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Superfund and Brownfields, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including recycling, Federal Facilities and interstate waste, Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), Chemical Safety Board, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Environmental Justice and Risk Assessment

Transportation and Infrastructure: Max Baucus is the chair and George Voinovich is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Public Buildings, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Economic Development Administration, Historic Preservation, National Dam Safety Program, Stafford Act and federal disaster relief programs, Mississippi River Commission, Green Buildings

Water and Wildlife: Ben Cardin is the chair and Mike Crapo is the ranking member. The jurisdiction is:

Clean Water Act, including wetlands; Safe Drinking Water Act; Coastal Zone Management Act; Invasive Species; Fisheries and Wildlife, Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Wildlife Refuges; Outer Continental Shelf Lands

That's it for this week. Next week will probably be the armed services committees and any movement on DADT unless something else comes up or I get a suggestion for something else.

For more about other committees, check out my previous work:
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

Crossposted on Daily Kos, Congress Matters, Docudharma, and my own blog.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Considered Forthwith: House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

Welcome to the 15th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

This series usually runs on Sunday evening, but this is a special edition in honor of the DK Greenroots project. This evening, I will look at the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. This select committee was formed in March, 2007 after the Democrats took control of Congress to study policies intended to reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil from overseas, and reduce greenhouse gasses.

If you are interested in environmental issues, please join DK GreenRoots, a new environmental advocacy group created by Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily. DK GreenRoots comprises bloggers at Daily Kos and eco-advocates from other sites. We focus on a broad range of issues and are always open to new ones.

Over the coming weeks and months, DK Greenroots will initiate a variety of environmental projects, some political and some having nothing directly to do with politics at all.

Some projects may involve the creation of eco working groups that can be used for a variety of actions, including implementing political action or drafting proposed legislation. We are in exciting times now because for the first time in decades, significant environmental legislation will be passed by Congress. It is far easier to achieve real change if our proposal is on the table rather than fighting rearguard actions.

We alert each other to important eco-stories in the mainstream media and on the Internet, promote bloggers at one site to readers at other sites, connect bloggers of similar interests to each other and discuss crucial eco-issues.

Come help us put these projects together. Bring ideas of your own. There is no limit on what we can accomplish together.

Here are the committee members:

Democrats: Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Chairman; Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Jay Inslee of Washington; John Larson of Connecticut; Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota; Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri; John Hall of New York; John Salazar of Colorado; Jackie Speier of California

Republicans: James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Ranking Member; John Shadegg of Arizona; Candice Miller of Michigan; John Sullivan of Oklahoma; Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; Shelley Capito of West Virginia

My humble take on Global Warming

I sincerely believe that human activity is a direct cause of the observed warming of the Earth in the last century. No, I don't think it has anything to do with the decline in the number of pirates in the world. If it did, I would be sailing the Seven Seas in search of booty and plunder right now.

If I am wrong, no matter. Even if spewing pollutants into the air is not actively altering earth's climate, it is still doing no favors for the environment, particularly in terms of air quality. Furthermore, I was raised to clean up my own mess, so we have a collective responsibility to minimize air pollution, even if global warming is a natural phenomenon unrelated to greenhouse gasses.

Select vs. Standing Committee

On Sunday, I wrote a brief overview of how Congressional Committees operate. However, this is a good time to note the difference between a standing and select committee. Select committees are temporary panels that are created by the chamber leadership to investigate certain issues. Select committees may hold hearings, but not mark up legislation. Standing committees are the permanent panels that do mark up bills and advance them to the full Chamber.


For those unfamiliar with the process, a committee's jurisdiction is the formal statement specifying the areas that a committee may address. This committee's jurisdiction is:

Jurisdiction: The select committee shall not have legislative jurisdiction and shall have no authority to take legislative action on any bill or resolution. Its sole authority shall be to investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, technologies and other innovations, intended to reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign sources of energy and achieve substantial and permanent reductions in emissions and other activities that contribute to climate change and global warming.

Admittedly, most citizens don't think to check with the House of Representatives' committee system system to get information about global warming and energy independence. This is more a resource for members and the reporters who cover them. For example, the committee recently promoted this story: National Climate Science Report Makes Strong Case for Immediate Action on Global Warming that should have turned some heads in Congress.

Furthermore, this is the official position of the majority party on global warming and energy independence, so we can rest assured that the House Democrats are generally on board with combating global warming, even if some voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act also known as the Cap and Trade bill for their own reasons. If we can convert from fossil fuels -- particularly from overseas -- to non-polluting sources, then we can both protect the earth and unshackle ourselves from whims and politics of the members of OPEC.

In any event, this would be a good panel for Green Kossacks to track.

The importance of the committee

Energy and the environment are two problems that are inseparably linked. In the absence of efficient power sources (solar, wind, and geothermal) the production of energy pollutes since much of our electricity in generated through burning coal. Nuclear power does not directly pollute, but the toxic waste is a huge problem. Furthermore, the use of energy for transportation pollutes the air. Therefore, it is only reasonable to consider both issues together and the fact that this panel is addressing the two issues holistically rather than piecemeal is almost an innovation in governing.

Another important note is that this select committee was formed when the Democrats took office. We can all agree that the Republican record on the environment in general and global warming in particular is non-existent at best and a tragedy of epic proportions at worst. Just the establishment of the committee showed that the Democrats intend to take Global Warming seriously.

One indirect power of the committee is its members. Each one sits on at least one other committee that deals with climate change and energy independence issues. While this select committee has no direct power to alter legislation, members can take the ideas offered in hearings of the select committee and offer them as amendments to bills considered in standing committees.

In addition, the select committee is actively tracking legislation on topics they have investigated. Obviously, the major legislation right now is Cap and Trade, but there are plenty of other resources posted on the website. This committee's website is like a one stop shop for the latest on climate change legislation.

Debunking the deniers

The most frustrating part about addressing global warming is the fact that the deniers (sorry, they prefer to be called "doubters") are not only vocal, but very well funded.

From Newsweek:

But (Senator Barbara) Boxer figured that with "the overwhelming science out there, the deniers' days were numbered." As she left a meeting with the head of the international climate panel, however, a staffer had some news for her. A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on. "I realized," says Boxer, "there was a movement behind this that just wasn't giving up."

And the deniers may be winning on the public opinion front. From the same article:

Just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was "a lot" of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was "mainly caused by things people do." In contrast, majorities in Europe and Japan recognize a broad consensus among climate experts that greenhouse gases—mostly from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to power the world's economies—are altering climate.

On this page, the committee thoroughly debunks a denial piece that the Washington Post felt compelled to run in 2007. Sadly, while we are wasting time and paper arguing a point that is not really up for debate, we are also wasting time that could be better spent developing solutions.

In keeping with the theme of pushing back, let's check out the minority website. All of the committees have a minority website. Regardless of which party is in power, the official site is controlled by the majority, but the minority does get their own little corner of that slice of cyberspace. Here's what the Republicans have to say:

In the United States and around the globe, there's a debate about what affect emissions from cars, factories and power plants are having on the temperature of the Earth. This debate has inspired passion in some, fear in others, and a host of solutions, both good and bad.


While searching for solutions, Republicans will urge Congress to be guided by these principles:

* First, any solution must produce real improvement to the environment. Some proposals would damage the economy without making any significant reductions in greenhouse gases.
* Second, any solution must focus on technologies from across the energy spectrum, from nuclear to clean coal to renewable energy to improved energy efficiencies.
* Third, any climate change policy must protect U.S. jobs and the economy.
* Finally, it must require global participation, including China and India, whose industrial growth is resulting in a tremendous rise in greenhouse gas emissions from these nations. This year, it is expected that China will surpass the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, so good. Nice platitudes. Now take a look at their latest press release and tell me if the GOP are concerned about playing the fear card:

Cap-and-Tax Bill Will Raise Energy Prices, Ship Jobs and Funds Overseas

So much for that.

And for what it's worth, Nate Silver figured out that a majority of Americans support Cap and Trade until their monthly energy bill increases by $18.75 per month. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the increase to be an average $14.58 per month.

Remember, too, that these global warming doubters deniers have managed to get themselves elected to congress. To name names, two of them are Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. Even Select Committee Ranking Member James Sensenbrenner groused about the costs of halting global warming.

Some other committee studies

Beyond the ever present and ever unpleasant task of mythbusting global warming denials, the select committee has been busy with other studies. Some are positive ideas like tips for living more green at home, school and work. Others are dedicated to debunking other right wing myths.

Remember Drill, baby, drill? Here's what the committee has to say about that: "The facts are clear. America can not drill our way to energy independence."

They even included this pretty graphic:

Drill baby drill

Maybe they should have included this projection reported on Alternet which warns of up to 90 minor oil spills per day from increased offshore drilling.

Most recently, the select committee held a hearing on the impact of global warming on agriculture and forestry. Chairman Markey had this to say:

The findings of the report that rising temperatures, precipitation changes and increasing weeds, disease and pests will impact the productivity of farms and forests should make us all apprehensive.

source (.pdf link)

I have not read through all of the testimony. The important point to keep in mind, though, is that Congressional hearings typically get noticed by the traditional media and other members. Often, they will generate stories for the 24 hour news cycle. I could not find a specific story about this hearing, therefore I encourage the Progressive bloggers to take notice, too, and generate our own stories. To make it easier, many committees do live webcasts of hearings, so there is no reason why someone in California cannot watch hearings and write up a blog post on a story that the rest of the media ignore.

Here's a story that did grow legs, so to speak. Remember the debate about global warming's impact on the polar bear -- namely that Joe Scarborough doesn't care about polar bears. In January 2008 the committee held a hearing to ask Bush administration officials why they had not listed the species as endangered due to ice melts in the Arctic.

Markey even introduced a bill, that never got out of committee, to:

To prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from selling any oil and gas lease for any tract in the Lease Sale 193 Area of the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Region until the Secretary determines whether to list the polar bear as a threatened species or an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and for other purposes.

Source (.pdf link)

The polar bear has since been listed as "threatened," which does not have quite the same policy impact as "endangered," but it is a start.

If nothing else, this hearing generated interest in the media and the public. It also inspired this LOL:

Global Warming Bear Pictures, Images and Photos

Finally, the committee even has links to various carbon footprint calculators so that you can see exactly how much your lifestyle contributes to global warming and environmental degradation.

The whole point in writing this diary was to let everyone know that this committee exists and that they are doing something. Just the existence of the committee demonstrates the commitment of the House leadership to studying the causes of global warming, the effects of proposed policy, and ways to wean the country off of energy sources that pollute the environment and place us in strategically untenable political associations.

For more about other committees, check out my previous work:
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

Crossposted at Congress Matters and Daily Kos.