In December 2008, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the slate of Democrats who will serve as chairs of House Committees for the 111th Congress, which is in session from January 2009 to January 2011.
House Committee chairs are powerful and highly sought after, and are determined based on expertise, leadership on the issue and seniority.
(Also read U.S. House Democratic Leadership, 2009 to 2011.)
Legislation to increase taxes and other federal revenue, or to expend federal funds must originate in the House. Thus, House Committees hold great influence over U.S. policies and budgetary matters.
House committees will be chaired in the 111th Congress by the following members of Congress:
- Energy & Commerce
Rep. Henry Waxman (17 terms, Southern California) wrested chairmanship of this vital committee away from longtime ranking Democrat John Dingell by a close Democratic Caucus vote of 137 to 122.
Waxman, an unabashed liberal, is a stronger pro-environmentalist than Dingell, who has many auto-industry connections via family and friends. Waxman's election is expected to cause swifter passage of enviromental and climate change legislation sought by the Obama administration.
Waxman previously served vigorously as the chair of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee.
- Financial Services
Rep. Barney Frank (9 terms, Massachusetts) became the face of Congressional leadership during the Fall 2008 crash of U.S. financial markets. Frank has been described as one of the "brightest and most energetic defenders of civil rights issues."
During the 111th Congress, Frank will work closely with the Obama administration to rebuild U.S. financial markets, which will undoubtedly involve new oversight systems.
- Armed Forces
Rep. Ike Skelton (15 terms, Missouri) has been the Chair or ranking Democrat on this committee for 10 years. Although he voted for the Iraq War, he expressed concerns about troop readiness.
- Natural Resources
Rep. Nick Rahall (16 terms, West Virginia) plans to continue reverse this committee's course of the last decade, which attempted to increase oil drilling in protected areas such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, privatize public lands, and weakened environmental protections laws.
Rahall wants to repeal Republican legislation giving oil companies breaks on royalty payments, and to rewrite mining laws to afford better environmental controls.
Rep. John Conyers (21 terms, from Michigan), a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, released "What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report On The 2004 Presidential Election" in May 2005, a report that details voter suppression and irregularities in the 2004 elections.
And in August 2006, activist Conyers released a report compiling evidence that the Bush Administration altered intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Rep. Conyers is expected to continue to push for broad immigration reform, and for close scrutiny of the USA Patriot Act for Constitutional liberties violations.
- Ways & Means
Rep. Charles Rangel (18 terms, New York City) will wield great authority over this committee that handles taxation and trade matters, among others.
- Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (6 terms, El Paso, Texas), a decorated Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Border Patrol agent, plans to make intelligence in Iraq a top priority, but also vows to focus on "emerging threats" from around the world.
Moderate Democrat Reyes is imminently qualified and experienced to lead the House in balancing intelligence concerns between national security and civil liberties.
- Education & Labor
Rep. George Miller (16 terms, from Northern California) was a contributing author of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Miller priorities for education include increase fiscal support for that underfunded Act, and stemming cuts in federal college scholarships and grants, including the Pell Grant program, which is the main source of college financing for low-income families.
- Homeland Security
Rep. Bennie Thompson (8 terms, from Mississippi), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, became a particularly outspoken advocate for the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Thompson plans to continue to push legislation to implement many of the 9/11 Commission suggestions.
Rep. David Obey (19 terms, from Wisconsin), the third longest serving House Democrat (after Dingell and Conyers) is widely known for his leadership on ethics, and originated rules requiring members of Congress to publicly disclose their personal financial dealings.
Agriculture - Rep. Collin Peterson (MN)
Budget - Rep. John Spratt (SC)
Foreign Relations - Rep. Howard L. Berman (CA)
House Administration - Rep. Robert A. Brady (PA)
Oversight & Government Reform - Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY)
Rules - Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY)
Science & Technology - Rep. Bart Gordon (TN)
Small Business - Rep. Nydia Velaquez (NY)
Transportation & Infrastructure - Rep. James Oberstar (MN)
Veterans' Affairs - Rep. Bob Filner (CA)