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Rules Green Lights New Panel, Committee Budgets

The House is expected to vote on a measure today or Friday that would provide an across-the-board 2.4 percent boost to the chamber’s committees. The measure, given the green light by the Rules Committee on Wednesday, also officially creates the new Select Climate Change Committee.

The new committee will receive $1.7 million this year and $2 million in 2008, Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said.

The House Administration Committee, the panel in charge of committee funding, approved the measure last week.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) first announced the creation of the new panel last month. It will run until October 2008 and is expected to be chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

In addition, Pelosi has said she would like a bill addressing climate change passed by July 4.

While most members of the Rules panel said global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed by Congress, Republicans argued that Democrats weren’t open about the creation of the committee.

Rules ranking member David Dreier (R-Calif.) led the protest.

“Us in the minority didn’t even get a chance to see this legislation,” Dreier said, adding he didn’t look at it “until I walked into this room at 2 o’clock.”

Dreier pointed to the discussion held in the 109th Congress over whether to form a select committee on the Hurricane Katrina disaster. At that time, the creation of a select committee was done in an open fashion, with public hearings and debates, he said.

But Dreier’s comments drew ire from many Democrats on the panel.

“If you are going to say that we had this wonderful bipartisan process, it simply isn’t true,” Slaughter said.

Dreier also proposed an amendment to make the new committee function in a carbon-neutral fashion. It was a move praised by some on the panel, who said Congress needs to look at ways to become more environmentally friendly.

But Dreier’s amendment was voted down, with Democrats arguing they did not want to force the new panel to do anything potentially cumbersome so early on.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) argued that the creation of the new committee is important, as “Mother Nature is on life support because of 12 years of the Republican majority.”

Added Slaughter: “We believe this is crucial.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), a member of the Rules panel, proposed an amendment to the committee funding bill that would fully fund the request put forth by the ethics committee, on which he serves as ranking member.

The measure provides $4.9 million to the ethics committee over the next two years; the panel originally sought $6.1 million.

“We simply can’t do [work] in this Congress, with the rules changes and the mandates that have been handed to us, unless we are fully funded,” Hastings said, adding that the committee needs more staff.

But in a 9-3 vote, committee members voted the amendment down.

“I think all of the committees are in need of more funding,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). “Money is finite.”

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