Talk about a steep learning curve. Congressional oversight of a huge chunk of U.S. nonmedical civilian research will be in the hands of legislators
still hanging pictures on the walls of their new offices on Capitol Hill.
Representative Ralph Hall (R–TX), the new chair of the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, announced yesterday that freshmen will lead four of the five subcommittees on his panel. The unusual lineup,
for a body in which seniority is still the best ticket to leadership positions, is the result of senior members on the science panel holding
subcommittee chairs on more prestigious committees. That arrangement removed such familiar faces to the scientific community as Representative Judy
Biggert (R–IL), whose district includes Argonne National Laboratory, and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R–WI), a past chair of the full committee.
The resulting vacuum created opportunities for four of the 87 new faces that fueled the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the
The lone holdover from the previous Congress, when Republicans were the minority party, is Representative Paul Broun (R–GA), who will chair the
As ranking member, Broun was critical of many Democratic and White House initiatives as well as a vocal skeptic of the need for federal action to curb
greenhouse gas emissions.
The new chair of the energy and environment subcommittee, Representative Andy Harris (R–MD), is a Johns Hopkins University-trained anesthesiologist.
Harris, who served 12 years in the Maryland state legislature, serves a district that includes a large slice of the environmentally sensitive
None of the other new subcommittee chairs hold any advanced scientific or technical degrees, although two represent districts with major NASA
facilities. One is the new chair of the research and science education subcommittee, Representative Mo Brooks (R–AL), a county and state official whose
district encompasses Huntsville. The chair of the space and aeronautics subcommittee, Representative Steven Palazzo (R–MS), is a tax accountant who
lives in Biloxi along the gulf coast.
The chair of the technology and innovation subcommittee, Representative Ben Quayle (R–AZ), is a Phoenix lawyer with no special expertise in the area.
But he boasts an important political pedigree as the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, and he's seen as a rising star within the Republican