Welcoming The 116th Congress

Welcome to the start of the
116th Congress!
Today, 90 new House members and 9 new Senators enter the Capitol complex for their first day on the job.

102 House Members and 25 Senators are women – the highest number in the history of the nation. All of the Members of the 116th Congress are returning under unusual circumstances: Day 13 of a partial government shutdown, which includes our beloved National Wildlife Refuge System.

In the House, Nancy Pelosi was elected as the new Speaker of the House, with Steny Hoyer (MD) and Jim Clyburn (SC) as her deputies. The Republican House Minority Leader is Kevin McCarthy (CA), with Steve Scalise (LA) as his deputy. On the Senate side, leadership will remain the same, with Mitch McConnell (KY) as the Majority Leader and Chuck Schumer (NY) as the Minority Leader.

We are watching to see how the committee structure shakes out with all the new Members and which committees they will join. We do know that Speaker Pelosi will revive the Select Committee on Global Warming – now called the Select Committee on the Climate Crises, chaired by Kathy Castor (FL). The Select Committee is instructed, “to investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis which will honor our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet for future generations.”

Important for refuges are the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, to be chaired by Betty McCollum (MN). The House Natural Resources Committee will be chaired by Raul Grijalva (AZ). Both Members are strong supporters of the Refuge System, and we look forward to working with them in this new Congress.

A full list of the Full Committee Chairs is below.

On the Senate side, the committee structure will mainly stay the same. The biggest change is to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee- Joe Manchin (WV) will replace Maria Cantwell (WA) as the Democratic Ranking Member.

The biggest topic of conversation in DC this week is how to end the government shutdown. Funding lapsed on December 21st, and the Democrats in the House are poised to pass a bill today to reopen the government. But Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said he will only take up a bill that the President will sign and thus, the stalemate will continue – perhaps even for weeks.

In the meantime, the news is full of stories of national parks being trashed, and Refuge staff are working hard to prevent the same on refuges. We have received numerous stories from Friends members on how the shutdown is affecting your refuge. Keep those stories coming, and thank you! And a huge and very special thank you to all the refuge Friends, volunteers, and supporters who are doing what they can every day to minimize the impact to their local refuge – by picking up trash or trying to educate visitors on what the shutdown means!


We will be in touch early next week with a comprehensive analysis on how the new Congress will affect refuges, and what you can do as a Friends member and refuge supporter to help effect change for the Refuge System!

Happy New Year!

Caroline Brouwer

Director, Government Affairs

New House of Representatives Committee Chairs:

  • Agriculture: Collin C. Peterson (MN)
  • Appropriations: Nita M. Lowey (NY)
  • Armed Services: Adam Smith (WA)
  • Education and Labor: Robert C. Scott (VA) (committee currently named Education and the Workforce)
  • Energy and Commerce: Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ)
  • Financial Services: Maxine Waters (CA)
  • Foreign Affairs: Eliot L. Engel (NY)
  • Homeland Security: Bennie Thompson (MS)
  • Judiciary: Jerrold Nadler (NY)
  • Natural Resources: Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ)
  • Oversight and Government Reform: Elijah E. Cummings (MD)
  • Science, Space and Technology: Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
  • Small Business: Nydia M. Velázquez (NY)
  • Transportation and Infrastructure: Peter A. DeFazio (OR)
  • Veterans’ Affairs: Mark Takano (CA)
  • Ways and Means: Richard E. Neal (MA)

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2019/01/welcoming-the-116th-congress/

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