Longtime Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) is expected to become the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next month when Democrats take over leadership in the House of Representatives.
Pallone, elected last month to his 16th term in the lower chamber, is currently ranking Democrat on the panel. He would succeed current Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who has already been selected as Republicans’ ranking member for the committee.
The committee has a wide oversight authority over agencies including the Energy Department, its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
During a February hearing on nuclear infrastructure, Pallone said the Energy Department has done a so-so job of overseeing the safety and efficiency of its own work. He also questioned if an agency such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates the nuclear industry, should play a role in overseeing DOE safety practices. The New Jersey lawmaker also bemoaned the department’s large environmental liability.
The House Democratic Caucus was expected this week to vote on committee chairs, but that was delayed by the death of former President George H.W. Bush over the weekend, according to a congressional staff source. The Democratic Caucus vote is still expected this month, the source said.
While the source expects Pallone to become chairman, he did not know who might become vice chairman at Energy and Commerce. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who is retiring, currently holds that position.
Walden announced Friday the House Republican Steering Committee had elected him ranking member for Energy and Commerce. “Under my leadership, the Energy and Commerce Committee has worked in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner to advance key legislation for our district,” Walden said in a press release, adding there is “much more work to be done.” Walden became chairman two years ago and replaced Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) whose term at the helm expired.
Walden has been an active supporter of funding for environmental management of the Energy Department’s Hanford Site in neighboring Washington state.