Home Commentary Op-ed Christensen Makes the Right Committee Move

Christensen Makes the Right Committee Move


For those distant from the workings of Congress, the recent decision of Delegate Donna M. Christensen to move from one committee to another may not look like much.

But it does. The move reflects well on her standing on the Hill, and will give her—and the islands—much more leverage in Washington.

She had been a member of the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee; she has left that assignment and will be, as she was last year, a member of the more powerful, more wide-ranging Committee on Energy and Commerce.

She announced the switch in a press release on Wednesday.

Energy and Commerce is one of three "exclusive" committees in the House, three committees with more power than other committees and hence, routinely, members may serve on only a single committee. That is why Christensen left Natural Resources.

The other two exclusive committees are Appropriations, which allocates funds, and Ways and Means, the tax-writing committee.

Energy and Commerce deals not only with the two subjects named in its title, but health care as well. That she is a medical doctor may well have played a role in her securing this choice committee assignment.

She had been a member of Energy and Commerce in the last Congress but lost her seat there as the Democratic numbers on the committee were sharply reduced to reflect their smaller numbers in the House as a whole.

Her opportunity to return to the committee may well be a by-product of another personnel shift, that is based, I assume, on a longtime rivalry between two rich, well-connected and powerful California Congresswomen.

The two are former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now Minority Leader, and the other is Congresswoman Jane Harman, once a candidate for governor of that state.

Pelosi saw to it in 2006 that Harman, who appeared be a leading candidate for the post, did not get to be chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Recently she decided to leave the House to become the president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, a largely independent arm of the Smithsonian Museum and a highly regarded think tank.

Christensen will replace Harman on the committee.

While the committee that Christensen is leaving, Natural Resources, has jurisdiction over territorial matters, the V.I. delegate does not need to be a member of that committee to secure appropriate attention for V.I. matters. The other delegates from the other territories are on the committee and will, presumably, be supportive of her initiatives.

It is useful to recall, in this matter, that while the island delegates have no votes on the floor of the House, they have full votes in committee. It will be useful to the V.I, that its delegate is a member of a high priority committee, rather than a lower priority committee.

Further, any member of the House has much more influence in the committee where he or she serves, than in the House as a whole.

In short, a good move for the delegate, and for the islands.


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