Rep. Johnson Wants Dems’ Top Spot on House Science

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U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) will seek the top Democratic seat on the House Science and Technology Committee when the 112th Congress convenes in January, according to a statement issued Nov. 8.

“If elected as Ranking Member, I would work tirelessly in order to further seek the implementation of policies which we have not yet been able to advance in the 111th Congress,” the 74-year-old Waco native said in the statement. Johnson, who also serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said she would “fight to ensure that our aviation industry and, NASA specifically, remains strong, and able to undertake each and every new mission that draws them further away from our planet and into depths of scientific discovery.”

Johnson, who is entering her 10th term in Congress, was among 185 Democrats who voted Sept. 29 in favor of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which the House approved 304-118. The bill, which U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law Oct. 11, was largely viewed as a compromise between a White House proposal to overhaul the nation’s space program and invest in fostering a commercial space market and lawmaker concerns the plan would cede U.S. leadership in space.

“Today, I stand eager to work with the Republican Chairman of the House Science committee to help rebuild our Nation’s economy through science; with basic and applied scientific research to enhance our standard of living, foster new industries, and retain our global competitiveness,” she said in the statement.

Rep. Jerry Costello of Illinois, the senior Democrat on the House Science and Technology panel, said he has no plans to pursue the committee’s top Democratic slot.

“I am deeply committed to my work on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and there is a great deal of important legislation to address next year,” including a possible reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, Costello said in a Nov. 8 news release.

If chosen to serve as ranking member, Johnson would succeed retiring chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the panel’s current ranking member and an outspoken critic of Obama’s NASA overhaul, is the presumptive chairman.