U.S. House Science Committee Set For Big Turnover

Swan song? House science committee Chair Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX), shown here at a September hearing, is expected to step down at the end of the year.

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

A key science policymaking body in the U.S. House of Representatives is about to get a makeover. Ten current members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have been defeated in this year's elections or are retiring, according to an analysis by ScienceInsider. That's one-quarter of the total membership.

The panel is also expected to get a new chair, as current chief Representative Ralph M. Hall (R-TX), is term-limited under current House rules. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is considered a favorite to win the gavel, but former committee chair Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) has reportedly expressed interest in regaining his old job.

The panel's senior Democrat, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), handily won reelection last night.

The science committee is generally considered a second-tier assignment because it has relatively little power. Although its name suggests a grander role, it has little authority over the largest federal funder of research—the National Institutes of Health. It does oversee policy for NASA, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and other science agencies. But as a so-called authorizing committee, it has a limited influence over spending by these agencies, which is set by Congress's appropriating committees. It does, however, play a significant role in shaping broad policy and conducting oversight investigations into agency activities.

The panel currently has 40 slots—23 Republicans and 17 Democrats—although three of the Democratic slots and one Republican slot have been vacant. (That split could change in January, when the new Congress convenes, but Republicans will maintain their majority.)

Members known to be leaving the panel come January are:


  • Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), who was defeated in the general election. He was the panel's fifth most senior Republican.
  • Judy Biggert (R-IL), who was defeated by physicist Bill Foster, a former member of Congress, in the general election.
  • W. Todd Akin (R-MO), who lost his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • Sandy Adams (R-FL), who was defeated in a primary.
  • Benjamin Quayle (R-AZ), who was defeated in a primary.
  • Chip Cravaack (R-MN), who was defeated in the general election.


  • Jerry Costello (D-IL), who is retiring.
  • Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who is retiring.
  • Brad Miller (D-NC), who is retiring.
  • Hansen Clarke (D-MI), who was defeated in a primary.

See more coverage on science and the U.S. 2012 elections.