Though Valentine’s Day might be right around the corner, love was not in the air between members of the House Committee on Natural Resources during their first organizational meeting, where the committee evaluated and adopted governing rules for the current Congress.
With little debate, the majority unanimously rejected all nine proposed Democratic amendments before accepting the new Authorization and Oversight Plan and committee rules. The plan outlines the committee’s goals, including reviewing, investigating, and assessing the spending of the National Marine Fisheries Service and certain of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s “wet” programs, as well as reauthorizing The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-479). It also contains the committee’s intent to review programs put in place by the previous administration, including the authority and funding of the National Ocean Council, “ocean zoning,” and fishing access in relation to the recent expansions of marine national monuments.
The politically-charged amendments covered a wide range of issues, from conflicts of interest by witnesses testifying at hearings to climate change. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) introduced an amendment that would have required the committee to conduct oversight of the connections between illegal natural resources harvesting and trafficking, which includes fisheries, transnational organized crime, terrorism, and human rights abuses. While committee Democrats argued that this issue is within their jurisdiction (legislation on this subject, The Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act (H.R. 2494), was referred to the committee last Congress, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service deal with these issues on a daily basis and fall under the committee’s oversight jurisdiction), the amendment was defeated along a party-line vote. An amendment introduced by Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) would have added language to the “Global Climate Change” section of the Oversight Plan to include human activity as a contributor to climate change. The amendment was also rejected.
Despite their disagreements, Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-1) highlighted the committee’s accomplishments during the previous Congress, including 118 bills that passed through the committee, 28 of which were signed into law. He described their focus in the coming months to be “analyzing and developing infrastructure proposals” within their jurisdiction and meeting their responsibilities under budget reconciliation.