House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Chair: Eddie Bernice Johnson

C-

Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

4 Investigative Oversight Hearings

32 Policy/Legislative Hearings

81 Total Hearings

Last updated: April 17, 2021, 3:56 p.m.

Born after Sputnik as the House Committee on Science and Aeronautics to oversee the newly-created NASA, the committee’s jurisdiction over the years has expanded to include most civilian non-medical scientific research throughout the government, including the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), EPA, NOAA and the Department of Homeland Security. (Informally known as the Science committee, it has undergone frequent name changes along the way.) Besides space exploration, improving American economic competitiveness through technology and STEM education has become an important part of its mandate. Traditionally, most committee members of both parties have supported R&D funding to maintain America’s scientific base. However, things became more partisan during the three terms of Chair Lamar Smith (2013-2018), a Tea Party Republican from Texas and one of the House’s most prominent climate science skeptics. He often attacked climate scientists and repeatedly clashed with EPA over its scientific methods, leading critics to call it ‘the anti-Science Committee’. The committee has five subcommittees: energy; environment; investigations and oversight; research and technology; and space and aeronautics.

Although it has a lower public profile than many House committees, the Science Committee maintains an active hearing schedule. It conducts more agency oversight than many committees, and has traditionally maintained a strong schedule of policy hearings. However, committee activity fell off sharply during Chair Smith’s final term in the 115th Congress (2017-18), the first two years of the Trump administration. In the pandemic-shortened 116th Congress (2019-20) under new chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), committee hearing activity rebounded considerably, although not to the level of prior Congresses. Total hearings and policy/legislative hearings were the second lowest of the six Congresses surveyed.

In the 116th Congress the committee held four investigative oversight hearings, all concerned with the Trump administration’s alleged hostility to scientific research. In July of 2019 it held two separate hearings into the Trump administration’s handling of science issues at the Environmental Protection Agency—one looked into alleged political meddling with scientific reports, the other examined an executive order that would slash the number of EPA’s scientific advisory committees. In November of 2019 it held a hearing into the Trump administration’s controversial decision to ban the use of many public health studies in rulemaking at the EPA. And in February 2020 it held a hearing into President Trump’s efforts to sharply cut funding for renewable energy research at the Energy Department.


Chairs

111th Congress: Bart Gordon (D-TN)

112th Congress: Ralph Hall (R-TX)

113th Congress: Lamar Smith (R-TX)

114th Congress: Lamar Smith (R-TX)

115th Congress: Lamar Smith (R-TX)

116th Congress: Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)


Current Congress

We are 100% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

4 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 33% historical maximum
32 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 55% historical maximum
81 Total Hearings; 83% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 4 72 121 95% A
112th Congress 5 72 119 97% A
113th Congress 6 59 99 84% B
114th Congress 15 53 97 100% A
115th Congress 4 25 80 51% F
116th Congress* 4 32 81 70% C-
Historical average 6.3 52.2 99.5

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Date Hearing Title Committee Category