The history of the Committee on Energy and Commerce is the story of American prosperity and opportunity.
The Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee. Today it has responsibility for the nation's telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health research, environmental quality, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce. It oversees multiple cabinet-level Departments and independent agencies, including the Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, Commerce, and Transportation, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission.
The Committee was born on December 14, 1795, as the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures when the growing demands of the young nation required that Congress establish a permanent panel to exercise its constitutional authority to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States."
As the new United States grew and Congress created new committees to deal with expanding policy concerns, the Committee asserted and maintained its dominant central position as the House's monitor of commercial progress. The evolution of the Committee’s name and jurisdiction reflect the Committee’s growing role and focus. In 1819, we became the Committee on Commerce in recognition that the Committee had expanded beyond the creation of navigational aids and oversight of the nascent federal health service to include foreign trade policy. The name changed again in 1891, becoming the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. That durable title sufficed for 90 years, when the Committee assumed its present name in 1981 to emphasize its lead role in the nation's energy policy.
Our Committee's prominent place in Congress is the direct consequence of the men and women who served here and who kept pace with the changing world for more than two centuries. Today, the wide-ranging work accomplished by the Committee on Energy and Commerce builds on a breathtaking record of achievement that began with building lighthouses and supervising the federal government's health service for sick and disabled seamen, a function that developed into the Public Health Service and National Institutes of Health. The Committee's overarching role in health, safety, and commerce can be traced to passage of the milestone legislation like the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The essence of the work of ensuring economic growth now encompasses responsibility for the myriad issues that arise daily in the unfolding digital age.
Click to read a blog post on the 217th anniversary of the committee (posted December 2012).