The House Energy and Commerce Committee is one of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives. It’s especially important as we look at climate change legislation and fuel economy (both of which current chairman, John Dingell, has delayed and watered down). Newly selected Chairman Henry Waxman will be much more aggressive in pursuing good legislation on those fronts, but that’s not the only reason to be excited about his ascendancy.
Waxman made his name as an investigator, running the House Government Oversight Committee like a machine. His investigations dug into the worst abuses of the Bush Administration, and stood up for civil servants and all working Americans against greed and cronyism both within the government and without.
Energy and Commerce does a lot of investigations also, as demonstrated by this list. Blacklisting of whistleblowers, contracts restraining free markets, toxic chemicals in food, scientific integrity of government agencies, FCC regulations (including net neutrality!), FDA conflicts of interest, and on and on and on. Now we’ll have Henry Waxman’s finely honed investigative skills behind that, looking not just at government misbehavior, but at misbehavior in the marketplace as a whole.
The committee also controls legislation relating to everything from media mergers and internet net neutrality to fuel economy standards and healthcare. Nearly any bill impacting commerce can be claimed by the committee. Shifting control from a moderate incrementalist to a liberal powerhouse will have important consequences not just for energy and environmental policy, but for healthcare, economic recovery and regulation, and NIH funding and research policy. This is huge, and it’s gratifying to know that my fears about the full caucus overturning the Steering Committee’s recommendation were unfounded.