'Old bulls' atop key committees
Berman, Markey eyed to chair showbiz-related panelsHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a new way of doing things after she was sworn in Thursday, but the committees with which the entertainment industry mainly deals will be in control of a bunch of "old bulls."
Long-serving, powerful lawmakers have been given that nickname as opposed to the up-and-coming "young Turks." One such bull, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the House's longest-serving member, administered the oath of office to the California Democrat, who made history as the nation's first female speaker.
Dingell will take over as chairman of the House Commerce Committee, a job he held before the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who was first elected to Congress in 1964, will chair the House Judiciary Committee.
"The Democrats are back," rejoiced Pelosi, and she immediately set the rank and file to work passing tougher ethics rules.
By custom, lawmakers brought their children to opening ceremonies in the House, and Pelosi swept into the chamber accompanied by her grandchildren. She was surrounded by children as she swore in the 110th Congress.
While the House's first 100 hours will be taken up by headline-grabbing legislation to raise the minimum wage, expand stem cell research, make Medicare prescription drugs cheaper, reduce the cost of student loans, implement anti- terror measures and reduce tax breaks enjoyed by the oil industry, lawmakers on the Commerce and Judiciary Committees — which handles legislation affecting television, content and copyright legislation — aren't expected to sit idly by.
Next week, the committees are expected to fill out their subcommittee rosters. Unlike in the Senate, most of the work in the House gets done at the subcommittee level.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., is expected to take the reins of the Judiciary Committee's copyright subcommittee, and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is expected to take over the chairmanship of the Commerce Committee's telecommunications subcommittee. Berman has been a longtime ally of the industry, and Markey held the post before the Republicans took over.
While Markey has pushed legislation opposed by some sectors of the industry, most notably the broadcasters, he is viewed as someone with whom the industry can work.
Both committees are key to the entertainment industry's interests, as is the House Ways and Means Committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
The Senate will move more slowly but is expected to organize within the next two weeks. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is expected to take over the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is expected to take over the Senate Commerce Committee. Both lawmakers often have aided the industry.