New Faces In House, Old Names For Panels

Friday, January 5, 2007

What's in a name? When it comes to House politics, plenty.

After Republicans took control in 1994, they changed the names of key House committees to reflect their view of government, what it should do and who it should benefit.

Big Labor, never a friend to the GOP, lost its position in the Education and Labor Committee when it became the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The name of the Committee on Natural Resources was, well, just too natural. It became simply the Resources Committee, all the better to put those resources to use.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs sounded like a study group for that egg-headed magazine. International Relations was so much better. Since government had no role in picking winners and losers in the burgeoning high-tech industry, the Committee on Science and Technology was renamed the Science Committee.

And since Republicans certainly believed that the government of then-President Bill Clinton needed to be watched and reformed, the Government Operations Committee became the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. As Clinton prepared to leave office, Republicans no longer felt as much need to watch over government, and "Oversight" was dropped from the committee known in Clintonian days as GROC.

Yesterday, House Democrats adopted a broad slate of rules changes, dominated by changes in ethics regulations. They also made a less-noted change: bringing back most of the old committee names, while putting the "Oversight" back into Government Reform.

-- Jonathan Weisman

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