One of the U.S. House of Representative's most senior Republicans is seeking a second stint as chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) today formally announced  that he will seek to be named head of the panel in the new Congress that convenes in January.
The current chair, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX), is being forced to step down because of a Republican rule preventing House members from serving more than 6 years as chair or ranking member. Sensenbrenner is expected to face competition for the job from two other senior Republicans, representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
"I am seeking the chairmanship for the House Science Committee because our nation's science and space policy is at a critical juncture," Sensenbrenner wrote in a statement. "The committee requires strong and effective leadership, and I want to bring my experience and proven record of legislative success to the committee."
If chosen, Sensenbrenner stated that his first priority "will be to pass smart science and space policy that spurs job creation and ensures America's future competitiveness. Specifically, we must responsibly fund our research and development programs, refocus NASA and foster the developing private space industry, and put the United States back on a path toward being a leader in STEM education."
He also promised to use the post to keep a close eye on the Obama administration, which he wrote "has shown its willingness to manipulate science for political ends and threaten our domestic energy production and our economy in the process." Sensenbrenner was a thorn in the side of the Clinton Administration during his previous stint as chair from 1997 to 2001.
Sensenbrenner is currently the vice-chair of the committee, and ranks ahead of Smith and Rohrabacher on the panel in terms of seniority. In a statement released last month, Smith—who is the outgoing chair of the House Judiciary Committee—laid out his interest in the science committee job. "When I was first elected to Congress, the Science Committee was my first choice," he noted. "Long ago and far away, I won the Bausch & Lomb Science Award in high school, studied astronomy and physics in college, and later earned my pilot's license. So I have had a longstanding interest in subjects overseen by the Science Committee."
"It is important that NASA have a unifying mission," Smith added. "Even though it has been almost 40 years since man last set foot on the moon, we should continue to shoot for the stars. And we can help future generations get there by encouraging kids to study in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). If America is going to remain competitive in today's global economy, we need to remain innovative and focused on exploring science and expanding new technologies. Through the work, research and development of American innovators, we can reach our goal of energy independence, develop new technologies to save lives, and discover new worlds in outer space."
Committee chairs are typically chosen by the Republican leadership, who then submit their candidates to a vote of rank-and-file members. That vote is expected later this month.
*Update 12:10 p.m., 8 November: This story has been updated to include a statement from Representative Lamar Smith.