Magazine article American Forests

Washington Outlook

Magazine article American Forests

Washington Outlook

Article excerpt

The mid-term congressional elections have been completed. The campaign rhetoric and posturing are behind us for awhile, thankfully, and Congress in its new make-up is preparing to get to work--to focus on the issues and, hopefully, get some things done.

Control of the House and Senate has shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats, reflecting the American people's dissatisfaction with the previous Congress, as well as the Administration, and their desire for change. The Democratic leadership--Nancy Pelosi (California) as Speaker of the House, the first woman to hold that position in the nation's history, and Harry Reid (Nevada) as Senate Majority Leader--has initially responded by recognizing its party's victory as a call for change both in the direction of key national policies and in how the Congress does its business.

They have promised to pursue new approaches to the major issues of the election, such as the war in Iraq, our nation's fiscal and tax policies, and domestic issues such as education, health care, and energy policy. And they have promised to seek a bipartisan approach in developing new solutions to these issues, to move away from the conflict and partisan politics that have characterized the workings--or non-workings--of the previous Congress (see Washington Outlook, Autumn 2006).

President Bush has also heard this message of public unhappiness and has signaled his willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion with the new congressional leadership. With the current power structure--the Democrats have control but only a slim majority in Congress and the President holds the veto power--it appears that bipartisan efforts will be necessary if Congress and the President are going to get much accomplished over the next two years.

This presents an opportunity for moderates in both parties to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to work together across the aisle to get things done. Such bipartisan efforts have been more commonly associated with the politics and culture of the Senate, but the current post-election situation provides an unusual political opportunity for members of the House to work across party lines as well.

While the election results only became clear in November and the new committee leadership was still uncertain at press time, several changes seemed fairly predictable and would present good prospects for bipartisan approaches in addressing forest conservation issues. In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico) likely will return to the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, while Sen. Pete Domenici (New Mexico) will become the ranking minority member. On the forests subcommittee of that full Committee, Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon) likely will become the chairman while Senator Larry Craig (Idaho) will shift to ranking minority member. Wyden and Craig have established close working relationships on several important pieces of forestry legislation in the past.

Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) likely will return to the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee while Senator Saxby Chambliss (Georgia) becomes the ranking minority member. Harkin led the Committee during the 2002 Farm Bill development, and that experience should prove useful in pursuing bipartisan efforts during this year's 2007 Farm Bill debate. …

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