Iowans land coveted House committee assignments

Iowa’s four U.S. House members received good news on January 11, when the House Republican Steering Committee agreed on assignments to the chamber’s most influential committees.

Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, IA-01) will serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where she hopes to promote legislation that would address climate change and reform permitting regulations for electricity transmission. Miller-Meeks has attended the last two United Nations Climate Change Conferences.

A news release noted that the panel is “the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee.” Its broad jurisdiction includes “telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health and research, environmental quality, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce.”

In a written statement, Miller-Meeks said she was honored to be chosen for the committee, which will be led by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.

“I’m proud of my background as a surgeon, and I’m confident that experience, paired with Iowa’s leadership in the clean energy space, leaves me uniquely qualified for this role. I look forward to working with Chair Rodgers, and I’m excited for the opportunity to represent Iowa on the committee.”

According to an article in Roll Call, Rodgers is “expected to focus first on energy policy,”

But the health care list is also long. Rodgers has pledged to drill down on the nation’s fentanyl crisis — an issue that also doubles as fodder for Republicans’ promise to secure the southern border and hold Big Tech companies’ feet to the fire.

Republicans also hope to boost their ongoing COVID-19 investigations with the additional power that comes with committee gavels. Ending the public health emergency, reversing worker mandates related to testing and vaccination, finding the origins of the virus, investigating fraud in pandemic aid programs and conducting oversight of the Biden administration’s pandemic-related decisions are all on the agenda.

Representative Ashley Hinson (R, IA-02) will serve on the House Appropriations Committee, where she was assigned in her first term as well.

In a written statement, Hinson said she was honored, adding, “As the only Iowan on this committee, I will continue to watch your taxpayer dollars like a hawk, work to restore fiscal responsibility, bring critical investments back home, and ensure our state has a seat at the table.” 

Representative Kay Granger of Texas will lead the committee, having previously served as its chair in 2019 and 2020. According to Roll Call, “Her Fort Worth-area district is home to military installations and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin Corp. She has repeatedly made clear that defense won’t bear the burden of any spending cuts that Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to in exchange for conservatives’ support.”

Representative Zach Nunn (R, IA-03) obtained a position on the Financial Services Committee, where the Democrat he defeated in November, Cindy Axne, also served. The Des Moines metro area is one of the country’s leading insurance centers. The panel is a sought-after assignment because its members usually are able to raise lots of money from interest groups and corporate PACs in its area of jurisdiction.

The new Financial Services chair will be Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. Roll Call reported that he “has vowed to ramp up oversight of banking and market regulators, pursue legislation to protect consumer financial data protections, make it easier to raise capital and establish a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies.” McHenry was also “a key negotiator behind the deal to secure the speakership” for Kevin McCarthy and the panel’s ranking member for the past four years.

Representative Randy Feenstra (R, IA-04) won a position on the Ways and Means Committee. He said in a news release,

“I am humbled to be selected to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee for the 118th Congress to continue my work serving and delivering for Iowa. From agriculture and trade matters to healthcare and tax policy, Ways and Means covers a wide array of legislative priorities important to our agricultural community and rural way of life. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue to be a strong voice for Iowa families, farmers, producers, taxpayers, and small business owners who deserve a seat at the table.

Over the last two years, Iowans have suffered the consequences of the Democrats’ reckless spending agenda, which has fueled inflation, raised input costs for our farmers, ballooned our debt, and destroyed our energy independence. Now, Americans expect Republicans to govern. As a proud Iowan, I will defend our families and farmers from crippling tax hikes, protect like-kind exchange and step-up in basis, stop the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing American farmland, negotiate fair trade agreements for our producers, and play a key role in passing a strong Farm Bill that benefits Iowa. Since I was first elected to represent the 4th Congressional District, my commitment to Iowa remains the same: I will always work to deliver real results for our families, farmers, main streets, and rural communities.”

The Ways and Means jurisdiction includes tax policy, trade and tariffs, the federal debt limit, and Social Security and Medicare.

Feenstra chaired the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee from 2017 through the 2019 legislative session, but stepped down from that role in order to focus on his 2020 Republican primary campaign against IA-04’s Representative Steve King.

Roll Call reported that Representative Jason Smith of Missouri will be “the youngest-ever Ways and Means chairman.”

Smith is pledging more of a working-class tone at Ways and Means and a populist-tinged trade policy in line with Trump’s approach to China, for instance. He’s also gearing up for the coming battle over federal spending, while at the same time seeking extensions of Trump’s signature tax cuts.

Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, and Ways and Means are usually “exclusive” committees, meaning that their members don’t serve on any other House standing committees. However, Hinson received a waiver in 2021, allowing her to serve on the Budget Committee as well.

The House GOP Steering Committee is likely to approve assignments to less powerful committees next week. Axne was able to serve on the Agriculture Committee in addition to Financial Services; perhaps Nunn will receive additional assignments as well.

UPDATE: Nunn was assigned to the Agriculture Committee on January 16. However, Feenstra will not be returning to that panel, in keeping with the tradition for Ways and Means members to have only one assignment. CORRECTION: Feenstra was able to retain a spot on the Agriculture Committee as well, according to his official website.

SECOND UPDATE: Barry Piatt, a longtime former Congressional staffer, argued in a Substack column,

In a normal Congress these would be blockbuster assignments for Iowans. In this Congress they don’t amount to much. The focus of this Republican controlled House will be elsewhere. This US House isn’t interested in solving problems for the American people. What the Republicans who run the place now are interested in is putting on a show. […]

The new House can’t pass legislation that will be enacted into law, and doesn’t even seem interested in doing that. Iowa’s all Republican delegation seems equally disinterested.

It’s all kabuki theater from here on for the next two years. That and dangerous games that threaten the economy and government’s ability to take action on real problems facing millions of Americans.

Committee assignments don’t amount to much in that environment.

THIRD UPDATE: Hinson will be among thirteen Republicans serving on a new House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on January 23.

Representative Mike Gallagher will chair the new panel. He has advocated for legislation to pressure American universities and pension funds to divest from China endowments and has criticized Wall Street firms for investing in China. In a written statement, Hinson said,

There is no larger threat to our economy, national and global security, and way of life than China. From reshoring manufacturing jobs and supply chains, to stopping the CCP’s military aggression, and preventing China from purchasing more U.S. agricultural land – our committee will produce the policy blueprint to address these issues and ensure the U.S. is competing to win our Cold War with China. We must take on China – not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, and I’m honored to serve on the bipartisan committee that will do so.

Hinson’s office announced on January 27 that she will serve “on the Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Subcommittees on the House Appropriations Committee.” In a written statement, Hinson said,

I look forward to giving Iowans a voice and holding the Biden Administration accountable on these important subcommittees. From advocating for small businesses and keeping tabs on the IRS, to fighting for border security resources and investing in our rural and agricultural communities, I will ensure Iowans’ needs are met while always watching taxpayer dollars like a hawk.

Miller-Meeks will serve on the Health and Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Minerals subcommittees of the Energy and Commerce committee. She also was named vice chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, she announced on January 27.

Top image: From left, official photos of U.S. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson, Zach Nunn, and Randy Feenstra.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin