Weekly recap - January 13, 2023
The start of the 118th Congress
And now the hard work begins
In the early hours of January 7, after 15 rounds of voting, Kevin McCarthy became Speaker of the House, ushering in the start of 118th Congress. Getting elected Speaker is likely the easiest thing he does in this Congress.
McCarthy has a slim majority and presides over a fractious caucus replete with bad faith freelancers. Depending on how the George Santos spectacle plays out, his margin could decrease (my bet is Santos goes, one way or the other). This will make trying to legislate a nightmare of extraordinary proportion.
What does it mean for those of us who try to work with Congress to shape federal policy on things like the management and use of our public lands and oceans? Simple answer: to soon to tell.
What we know so far
This week saw the start of organizational musical chairs of committee assignments. We know who the committee chairs are, but who sits on the committee, and what the subcommittees look like, is still being sorted out.
As expected, Rep. Bruce Westerman will chair the House Natural Resources Committee. Westerman was one of the members who nominated McCarthy. Rep. Raul Grijalva, the former chair, will be the ranking member.
Here's Westerman’s statement on Jan 10, 2023:
It's an incredible honor to be elected as the leader of this committee, one that I've served on during my entire time in Congress. Natural resources are important to me as a forester, as an Arkansan and as an American citizen, and I'm eager to use our new majority to show the world that conservation is inherently conservative. Republicans have been hard at work turning discussions with constituents into science-based, commonsense policy that works for everyone. Now, those policies are ready to take center stage as we fulfill our Commitment to America, jumpstart our economy, unlock our resources and end our dependence on China once and for all. Amid historically high energy costs, western drought and devastating wildfires, the Natural Resources Committee will be on the front lines of implementing meaningful change that impacts every American. I genuinely believe our best years as a country are still to come, and that starts with responsible stewardship of the incredible natural resources we've been given. Let's get to work!"
Westerman’s reference to the “Commitment to America” is instructive. When it comes to committee priorities, there was a bit of pre-view of coming attractions last fall. From the committee website:
“In September 2022, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy unveiled the Commitment to America. It’s a promise that if Republicans take back the House, we will work from day one to deliver an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom and a government that’s accountable. House Committee on Natural Resources Republicans are committed to these ideals, especially when it comes to making America energy independent, reducing gas prices, and ending our reliance on China. Here’s how we are already working toward making this a reality:” Read more details.
Other committee news of interest
Rep. Kay Granger will chair the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Rosa DeLauro will be ranking.
Rep. Mike Simpson will chair the Interior Subcommittee of the Appropriations committee. FWIW Simpson’s conservation views are reasonable; I don’t expect that to change.
Rep. Ryan Zinke, the former Interior Secretary, landed a seat on the Appropriations Committee.
The Agriculture Committee will be chaired by Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson. Rep. David Scott will serve as Ranking Member. Thompson announced listening sessions for developing the next Farm Bill. Thompson is no fan of the current Waters of the US rule. The Izaak Walton League of America’s has an interesting forecast article on their view of the both the House and Senate Ag committes.
A word of caution
There is a tendency by some (not the astute readers of this newsletter, mind you) to get all spun up by actions in House. The recission of $71 million of IRS funding is a good example. One vote in the House doesn’t magically make it the law of the land. The Senate and the President both have a say before it becomes it does. At best, it becomes an item for future negotiations.
The House is likely to spend the first part of this year making symbolic gestures and taking votes of legislation that will be DOA in the Senate and the Whitehouse.
A recent quote by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) in Punchbowl reinforces that view:
“Our friends in the House will have to realize that what passes the House isn’t necessarily going to be what passes the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn told us in El Paso, Texas, this week as he led a bipartisan delegation to the southwest border. “It may serve as sort of the foundation. But we’ve got to have a bipartisan product in the Senate by definition.”
This is political theater, and we will being seeing a lot of. The key is learn from it and see what paths may open up for legislation to move.
Shameless self promotion
Join me for the Marine Fish Conservation Network's livestream series, Waterside Chat on Tuesday, January 24, at 1:00 p.m. ET for a conversation with Moldy Chum's publisher and editor Brian Bennett to talk about AFFTA's Fisheries Fund's Tomorrow's Fish Campaign. Brian and Tom I will also talk about:
Why climate change is important to recreational fisherman
NOAA's Saltwater Recreational Angler summit
NOAA Fisheries' National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy
The difference between economic clout and political clout
How social media has evolved as a communication tool
It will be a lively and entertaining conversion for sure.
That’s it for this edition, thanks for taking the time to read it. Don't hesitate to comment or hit the chat button if the spirit moves you; I enjoy hearing from readers. You can find me on Post.news > @troutwrangler or on Mastodon > @TomSadler or @TroutWrangler.