Republicans Rename Labor and Ethics Committees

Republicans are renaming three House committees, including bring back Ethics and taking out Labor.

One of the oddities that occur when the majority changes in Congress is the ritual changing of committee names to reflect the political priorities of the incoming party.  When the Republicans take over the House after the holidays, three committees will have new/old names.   WSJ:

It’s the Education and the Workforce Committee, previously known in the just-concluded Congress as the Education and Labor Committee.

Republicans are planning the name change, and it isn’t the first. For years, the committee was called Education and Labor. But when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House in 1994, they wanted to show that there was a new sheriff in town—and he was not a pro-labor sheriff.

So they changed the name to the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities. Unfortunately, no one knew what that meant, nor could anyone remember the name. So it was soon changed to Education and the Workforce.

“Workforce” is a term employers are likely to use, while “labor” is more evocative of the union movement—after all, they call it the American Federation of Labor. So when the Democrats recaptured the House in 2006, they changed the name of the committee back.

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to control the House. And they’re changing the name back to Workforce.

TPM‘s Ryan J. Reilly and his commenters think taking “labor” out of the name odd but “workforce” actually strikes me as a more accurate and descriptive name.  Thankfully, only a tiny fraction of Americans perform anything that’s truly “labor” these days.  And even if we’re using “labor” in the sense of unionized workers, that’s a very small percentage.  “Workforce,” conversely, covers everyone from ditch diggers to unionized electricians to nurses and college professors.

The other changes are less controversial:

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will become the Ethics Committee, which is what everyone calls it anyway. And the Committee on Science and Technology will become the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

The addition of “Space” to the latter  is slightly redundant but presumably an emphasis added to show support for reviving our moribund space program.  Calling the Ethics Committee the “Ethics Committee” seems like a good idea, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tano says:

    “will become the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.”

    Remember it is the conservative Republicans we are talking about here. They just may be planning on running the space program in a manner that is distinct from science or technology. Lets be thankful they didn’t call it the “Applied Faith” committee.