Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Work of Our Congressional Delegation, Part Two

By Marc Korman.

My last entry examined the committee assignments of four of Maryland’s Congressmembers and what issues they might deal with in the coming year. Today we will take a look at the remaining four.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
As Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer has no committee assignments. On the other hand, he is in every meeting of the Congressional leadership and helps to craft and pass all of the legislation that goes through the House of Representatives. He also helps to determine the schedule, so the timing of major Obama initiatives will be signed off on by Hoyer. Will new regulations for global warming pass in 2009? When will healthcare be dealt with? Hoyer will weigh in on these decisions.

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett
The lone Republican in Maryland’s Congressional delegation serves on the Armed Forces Committee, Science and Technology Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

On the Armed Forces Committee, where Barltett just lost a bid to become the top Republican, he is considered a naval expert. That is no small matter for a state that houses the Naval Academy.

Barlett also has a background in science that equips him for the Science and Technology Committee, where he will address the same issues as Congresswoman Edwards mentioned last week.

The Small Business Committee has jurisdiction over the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the various federal programs to support and develop small businesses. According to the SBA, Maryland is home to 511,805 small businesses, which has the amorphous definition of a business that is “independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation.” The amount of small businesses in Maryland has probably shrunk during the current recession.

Congressman Elijah Cummings
Congressman Cummings sits on three House Committees: Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I), Armed Services, and Oversight and Government Reform.
Oversight and Government Reform has been extremely active over the last two years, since the Democrats became the majority in the House of Representatives, investigating the Bush Administration. It remains remains to be seen how active they will be in keeping watch over the Obama Administration.

On T&I, in addition to the major transportation bill, Congressman Cummings will likely continue his chairmanship of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. That Subcommittee helps oversee port security, an important issue for Congressman Cummings’ Baltimore district.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Unlike Maryland’s other member of the House leadership, Van Hollen maintains his committee assignments. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee and Oversight and Government Reform.

As Obama pushes forward with tax reform, both in the stimulus and because the Bush tax policies expire in 2010, Congressman Van Hollen’s committee has a central role.

On Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Van Hollen is in the unique position of being the Representatives for many of the government workers being overseen. As one staffer told me, this means that he needs to be at every hearing since it is his constituents testifying. It also increases the stakes for his participation in committee activities.

Committee work is just one part of a Congressmembers’ contribution. But it is the area where they have the potential to have the biggest impact. Regardless of which committee each Congressmember serves on, there is a full agenda for Congress in the coming year.