Texas Insider Report: WASHINGTON, D.C. – “I will promote legislation to encourage scientific discoveries, space exploration, and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers,” said Cong. Lamar Smith (R-TX), as he was elected earlier this month to chair the Texas-critical Science, Space & Technology Committee. Now in his 14th term, and with the seniority to force-multiply his chairmanship for the future of Texas’ NASA facilities and oil & gas interests, Smith touched on some of his potential priorities for the committee.
“American innovation is the engine of our economy,” said the Texas Congressman recently.
A founding member of the House’s Tea Party Caucus, Smith is known for his solidly conservative views on immigration and criminal justice, and also has earned the reputation as a skilled legislator able to work with Democrats.
And Smith, who at 64 years young represents the north San Antonio 21st Congressional District of Texas, has long shown an interest in space and energy issues, not surprising for a lawmaker from a state with substantial NASA facilities, and where new oil & gas techologies have lead to a boom in oil-patch industries statewide.
Smith has served on the Science, Space & Technology Committee for 26 years, but doesn’t hide his lack of technical training.
“In high school, I had won the Bausch & Lomb science award, and I aspired to be a physics major in college,” he told a Washington, D.C., audience earlier this year.
“Then, as a freshman [at Yale University], I took a physics class taught by the chairman of the department. … Looking to either side of me, I soon realized that I was sitting next to the future Einsteins of the world, and I wasn’t one of them.” (Smith’s physics class was taught by D. Allan Bromley, who 2 decades later became science adviser to President George H. W. Bush.)
“Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to share my vision for the Science Committee with my colleagues in the House of Representatives who select the Committee Chairmen in the U.S. House.
“I am pleased with the enthusiasm, and grateful for the support I’ve received,” said Smith.
Established in 1958, the Science, Space & Technology Committee has jurisdiction over all non-defense federal scientific research and development. Specifically, the Committee has partial or complete jurisdiction over the following federal agencies:
- the Department of Energy (DOE)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- National Science Foundation
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
- National Institute of Standards & Technology
- U.S. Fire Administration
- United States Geological Survey, among others.
Prior to winning the coveted slot, Smith released a statement touching on some of his potential priorities if elected chairman of the Science Committee last month:
“When I was first elected to Congress, the Science Committee was my first choice. Long ago and far away, I studied astronomy and physics in college, and later earned my pilot’s license. So I have had a long-standing interest in subjects overseen by the Science Committee.
“We can help future generations get there by encouraging kids to study in STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.
“We need to remain innovative and focused on exploring science and expanding new technologies. Through the work, research and development of American innovators, we can reach our goal of energy independence, develop new technologies to save lives, and discover new worlds in outer space.
House Speaker John Boehner supported Smith’s being elected to serve as the Science, Space & Technology Committee’s chairman:
“Lamar Smith has been a strong leader on important issues facing the American people. He is dedicated to promoting economic growth, to helping put Americans back to work, encouraging innovation and promoting national security.
“I am confident that he will bring the same strong leadershipand work ethic to the Science Committee as Chairman,” Boehner said.
As then-chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 2011, Smith managed to build bi-partisan support for a landmark Patent Reform Bill that was backed by the often-conflicted, and competitively diverse high-tech community.
“As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I worked across party lines to enact policies like patent reform that spur innovation and support new technologies.
“I plan to present my agenda for the Science Committee this month. I have the honor of serving as Chairman, and there will be plenty to discuss about the initiatives and legislation the Committee will undertake,” says Smith.