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February 2009

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


The 111th Congress Begins

The 111th Congress officially convened on January 6, 2009, the 110th Congress having adjourned sine die on January 2. Both Houses began work immediately on the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bills, including the Judiciary’s appropriations bill, as an omnibus package.

The November elections increased the number of Democrats in both Houses, changing the ratios of Republicans to Democrats on congressional committees. However, the Senate won’t finalize its committee rosters until the Senate election in Minnesota is determined.

Judiciary Committees

The chairs and ranking minority members of the Judiciary Committees, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the Senate and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) in the House, remain the same. In the Senate, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), and Sam Brownback (R-KS) left the committee. Senators Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are new members.

On the House Judiciary Committee, Conyers announced a change in subcommittee jurisdiction, creating the subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy from the former Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. The new subcommittee will deal with antitrust law, monopolies, restraint of trade, and the administration of the federal courts, including federal rules and judicial ethics. Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) chairs the subcommittee and Representative Howard Coble (R-NC) is the ranking minority member. Intellectual property issues, once part of the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, now will be handled at the full committee level.

Appropriations Committees

Representative José E. Serrano (D-NY) remains chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Funding for the Judiciary is under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) is the new ranking minority member, replacing retired Representative Ralph Regula (R-OH). The Senate has not yet finalized its committee memberships.