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Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Through the Ages

Congress establishes the Education Committee. Little more than a year later, the committee is renamed the Education and Labor Committee.

Congress passes the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act. One of the few major bills produced by the committee prior to the 1930s, the legislation authorizes federal support for vocational education.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act. The bill, which establishes the right to collective bargaining, is the first major labor law to go through the committee.

Two years after receiving jurisdiction over some health care issues, the committee produces the Hospital Survey and Construction Act, which authorizes federal grants for hospital construction. As part of a general legislative reorganization, the committee is renamed the Labor and Public Welfare Committee.

Congress overrides President Harry Truman’s veto of the LaborManagement Relations Act, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act. Sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Robert Taft (R-Ohio), the bill amends the 1935 Wagner Act and places new restrictions on organized labor.

President Dwight Eisenhower signs into law the National Defense Education Act. Drafted in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite, the bill supports scientific engineering and language training in higher education.

The Economic Opportunity Act is signed into law. The legislation is a cornerstone of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives and creates Head Start, the Job Corps and several other anti-poverty programs.

Johnson signs into law both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act. The bills establish the main federal assistance programs for both K-12 and higher education.

The committee plays a major role in the passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The bill regulates employer-provided retirement plans and establishes the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to insure pensions.

The committee is renamed the Human Resources Committee, before it is renamed the Labor and Human Resources Committee in 1979.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) becomes ranking member of the committee. When Democrats regain the majority in 1987, Kennedy becomes chairman.

The enactment of the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act, or the Hatch-Waxman Act, creates the modern generic drug industry. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is the committee’s chairman.

President George H.W. Bush signs into law the Americans With Disabilities Act. The bill prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in employment and public facilities.

A year after Bush vetoes a similar bill, President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act. The bill requires employers to provide their workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons.

Congress passes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The bill makes it easier for workers to transfer their health insurance when changing jobs and establishes new health privacy standards.

The committee adopts its present name, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act. The law reauthorizes federal K-12 education programs and imposes stringent educational standards on schools receiving federal aid.

President Barack Obama signs into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The bill, which Kennedy and many in Congress have long sought, gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.

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