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The Committee on Energy and Commerce is one of the oldest standing committees of the United States House of Representatives. Established in 1795, it has operated continuously - with various name changes and jurisdictional changes - for more than 200 years. The only other House standing committees with 200 years of continuous operation are the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Rules Committee. It has served as the principal guide for the House in matters relating to the promotion of commerce and to the public’s health and marketplace interests.

Role of the committee

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has developed what is arguably the broadest (non-tax-oriented) jurisdiction of any Congressional committee. Today, it maintains principal responsibility for legislative oversight relating to telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health, air quality and environmental health, the supply and delivery of energy, and interstate and foreign commerce in general. This jurisdiction extends over five Cabinet-level departments and seven independent agencies--from the Energy Department, Health and Human Services, the Transportation Department to the Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, and Federal Communications Commission — and sundry quasi-governmental organizations.

Members, 111th Congress

The committee chairman is Henry Waxman of Californiamarker, who replaced long-time chairman (now chairman emeritus) John Dingell of Michiganmarker in a surprise challenge for control of the committee. The Ranking Member is Joe Barton of Texasmarker.
Majority Minority

  • electing majority members to standing committees.
  • electing minority members to standing committees.


To manage the wide variety of issues it encounters, the Committee relies on the front-line work of five subcommittees. This is down from six subcommittees from the 110th Congress, after Chairman Waxman proposed, and the committee approved, consolidating the Energy and Air Quality and Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittees into one Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Bobby Rush (D-IL) George Radanovich (R-CA)
Communications, Technology and the Internet Rick Boucher (D-VA) Cliff Stearns (R-FL)
Energy and Environment Ed Markey (D-MA) Fred Upton (R-MI)
Health Frank Pallone (D-NJ) Nathan Deal (R-GA)
Oversight and Investigations Bart Stupak (D-MI) Greg Walden (R-OR)


The Committee was originally formed as the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures on December 14, 1795. Prior to this, legislation was drafted in the Committee of the Whole or in special ad hoc committees, appointed for specific limited purposes. However the growing demands of the new nation required that Congress establish a permanent committee to manage its constitutional authority under the Commerce Clause to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States."

From this time forward, as the nation grew and Congress dealt with new public policy concerns and created new committees, the Energy and Commerce Committee has maintained its central position as Congress's monitor of commercial progress — a focus reflected in its changing jurisdiction, both in name and practice.

In 1819, the Committee’s name was changed to the Committee on Commerce, reflecting the creation of a separate Manufacturers Committee and also the increasing scope of and complexity of American commercial activity, which was expanding the Committee’s jurisdiction from navigational aids and the nascent gederal health service to foreign trade and tariffs. Thomas J. Bliley, who chaired the Committee from 1995 to 2000, chose to use this traditional name, which underscores the Committee's role for Congress on this front.

In 1891, in emphasis of the Committee's evolving activities, the name was again changed to the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce — a title it maintained until 1981, when, under incoming Chairman John Dingell, the Committee first assumed what is now its present name to emphasize its lead role in guiding the energy policy of the United States. Dingell regained chairmanship of the committee in 2007 after having served as ranking member since 1995. In late 2008, Henry Waxman initiated a successful challenge to unseat Dingell as chairman. His challenge was unusual as the party caucus traditionally elects chairmen based on committee seniority. Waxman formally became chairman at the start of the 111th Congress.

Achievements and goals

The work of the Committee on Energy and Commerce today builds upon a long record of service, which has tracked the dynamic growth of the nation from the early days of the country. The Committee’s initial functions overseeing the Federal health service for sick and disabled seaman developed, eventually, into its oversight now of the Public Health Service and National Institutes of Health. Its historic jurisdiction over health, safety, and commerce generally also can be traced in the evolution of and continued oversight through such landmark legislation as the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Clean Air Act, as well as the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the U.S. Code’s Motor Vehicle Safety provisions. Today, when the public reads about the auto safety goals of the TREAD Act or about national energy policy, it can trace these measures back to the seminal legislation produced by the Committee over the years. The Committee’s role in assuring a vibrant economy has evolved with changing times – underscored recently by its work on legislation that provides for innovation in and expanded access to high speed Internet services.


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