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November Elections Bring New Leadership to the House of Representatives

Following the November 6th United States Federal elections, Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) is expected to become the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.  Pallone issued a statement on the Democrats winning the House majority, indicating his intent to take on the role of Chairman.  “Last night’s election results were a big win for our nation and for the American people. In the coming days, I will be asking my Democratic colleagues for their support to lead our party as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Frank Pallone has served New Jersey’s 6th congressional district since 1988 and has had a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee since 1992.  When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) retired in 2015, Pallone became ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) backed Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to take Waxman’s place, but Pallone’s seniority allowed him to prevail, defeating Rep. Eshoo in 100-90 vote of the full Democratic Caucus.  Pallone’s experience in energy legislation extends beyond his tenure on the Energy and Commerce Committee.  He is also a member of the Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, the Congressional Research and Development Caucus, and the Congressional Oil and National Security Caucus.  His time in congress has resulted in a 96 percent lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters.

Rep. Pallone’s stewardship of the Energy and Commerce Committee could spur new legislation.  Pallone has already made clear his intentions to put forth proposals that could significantly impact the energy sector and sustainability efforts in the United States.  “Next year,” Pallone stated, “We’ll also conduct vigorous oversight of the Trump Administration, so Washington works again for the people not the special interests. As we prepare for a Democratic majority, I will have discussions with my colleagues about moving forward with our priorities.”  In a press release on November 7, Pallone stated that he intends to put forward proposals to “rebuild America by investing in green energy, drinking water and broadband infrastructure;

address climate change by looking at the impacts on communities and the economy, and holding the Administration accountable for its policies that make it worse; and, restore environmental protections gutted over the last two years.”  He has already taken steps to put his plans into action. Rep. Pallone and the expected chairs of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), are planning two days of hearings on climate change in early 2019.  Pallone undoubtedly intends to fight for legislation that will champion green energy, but whether or not he will find success at passing such legislation is still unclear.

As a whole, the Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to tackle oversight of the Administration’s energy and environmental deregulatory efforts, modernization of the nation’s energy infrastructure, support for renewable energy, and addressing climate change in the next Congress.  Rep. Pallone will not be alone in carrying this torch.  Within the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) is expected to chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) is expected to chair the Subcommittee on Environment.  Rep. Rush stated that he intends to tackle grid modernization, updating natural gas and lead water pipelines, and oversight of Executive Branch agencies among other issues.  Rep. Tonko recently stated that climate change will be his top priority, and he intends to fight for air and water protections, investments in drinking water infrastructure, and implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Despite the focus on promoting clean energy and environmental protections within the Energy and Commerce Committee, Democrats in the House of Representatives are not all on the same page in terms of fighting climate change.  If reinstalled as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intends to revive the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was dissolved when Republicans took the House majority in 2010. "I don't think it's necessary," Pallone said about the Select Committee. "We have great people who want to take action on climate change who would be chairing the committees of jurisdiction. We got a lot of people on the committees that are real champions."  During the first iteration of the Select Committee, which then-Speaker Pelosi created, John Dingell (D-MI), who was the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, opposed the Select Committee on the grounds that it infringed on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction.  Pallone’s statement echoed similar concerns to Dingell’s.   Many of the more progressive Representatives-elect are pressuring Pelosi to revive the Select Committee.  These same Representatives-elect are demanding that the Democratic Caucus support their proposal to transition the U.S. to 100% renewable energy over the next decade.  The conflict over the Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction could mire Rep. Pallone’s agenda, but the overall commitment to combatting climate change among Democrats in the House remains clear.

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R. Neal Martin

ML Strategies - Senior Director of Government Relations

R. Neal Martin is a Senior Director of Government Relations at ML Strategies. He focuses on transportation, infrastructure, clean energy, trade, and federal appropriations, leveraging his many years of experience in government and government relations.