The Coalition Column

News Briefs, February 2007

Lee White, February 2007

Congressional Appropriations Committees Announce Restructuring

In the new 110th Congress, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee will have common subcommittee structures, a move that the incoming committee chairs hope will help to complete action on each of the government funding bills on time, by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, 2007.

The last time each of the appropriations bills was approved by Congress and signed into law by the start of the federal fiscal year was 1994—the last time that the current chairs, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Representative David Obey (D-Wisc.), led the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. In recent years under Republican rule, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have had a different number of subcommittees—10 in the House, 12 in the Senate—with different jurisdictions. This complicated matters when the committees were trying to reconcile funding bills between the House and Senate for the various federal agencies.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will each have 12 subcommittees, including a new Financial Services and General Government panel. That new subcommittee will have jurisdiction over federal agencies such as the Treasury Department, the federal Judiciary, and the National Archives and Records Administration. The names of the House Appropriations subcommittee chairs are not available at this time. The 12 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee chairs—all Democrats—are as follows (key federal agencies of interest to the history and archival communities are noted in parentheses):

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies: Sen. Herb Kohl (Wis.); Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: Sen. Barbara Mikulski, (Md.); Defense: Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii); Energy and Water Development: Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.Dak.); Financial Services and General Government (National Archives and Records Administration): Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.); Homeland Security: Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.); Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (National Park Service and National Endowment for the Humanities): Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.); Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Department of Education): Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa); Legislative Branch (Library of Congress): Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.); Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: Sen. Tim Johnson (S.Dak.); State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: Sen. Pat Leahy (Vt.); Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies: Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.).

Call for Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Act

On January 8, 2007, President Bush marked the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by meeting with the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over NCLB, and urged them to act quickly to reauthorize the education law. Joining the president in the meeting were Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) the chair and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Representative George Miller (D-Calif.) and Howard P. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

In a recent speech, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, “Renewing NCLB is one of the president’s top priorities.” In a joint statement released to the press, Kennedy and Miller agreed that changes were needed to the NCLB, but did not give a time frame for reauthorization. One of the key issues for the Democrats will be increased funding to implement NCLB. While the NCLB Act expires this year, many expect Kennedy and Miller to hold preliminary hearings on the law, but to postpone actual reauthorization until 2009 by passing a short-term extension.

AHA Session on the Life Cycle of Presidential Libraries

At the recent AHA meeting in Atlanta, a session was jointly sponsored with the National History Center to assess the health of the presidential library system. The session was held at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and was chaired by Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States. Also on the panel were Allida Black, director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project; Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Jay Hakes, director of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum; Timothy Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Library and Museum; and Anna Nelson, professor of history at American University.

The wide-ranging discussion touched on a number of subjects. Among the topics discussed were the need for improved public education programs, greater accessibility to archival material and more inter-library coordination on joint seminar topics such as a recent one on the Vietnam War. All agreed it was a constant struggle to present exhibits in a museum as objectively as possible despite the fact that the facility is dedicated to preserving the memory of a particular president. There was also broad consensus on the need for more funding and staffing to facilitate the processing and release of presidential materials. This challenge will only increase for future presidential libraries with the growing need to process electronic records.

—Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at lwhite@historycoalition.org.