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What Is the House Commerce Committee?

The House Commerce Committee's role grew thanks to changes in interpretation of the Constitution.
The House Commerce Committee was formerly known in the House of Representatives as the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The House Commerce Committee is an important panel within the House of Representatives.
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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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The House Commerce Committee, known formally as the Committee on Energy and Commerce, is a powerful committee within the United States House of Representatives. It has a broad mandate to regulate domestic economic activity within the United States and to act to protect the rights of consumers. The House Commerce Committee contains five subcommittees to deal with specific aspects of domestic economic policy.

Founded in 1795, the House Commerce Committee, known then as the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures, was initially charged with managing commerce between the states and promoting the growth and stability of domestic manufacturing. As the economy of the United States became more complicated over the next two centuries, the House Commerce Committee’s role became larger and more important. New areas of economic activity, such as telecommunications and the Internet, fell naturally within the jurisdiction of the House Commerce Committee. The increasingly broad legal interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution also expanded the role of the Committee, because expanded Federal power over economic activity was also within the Committee’s jurisdiction. The House Commerce Committee's five standing sub-committees each deal with a specific area of the Committee’s legislative responsibility.

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection handles most of the original regulatory functions of the Commerce Committee. It also serves as a consumer advocacy and protection agency. This subcommittee is responsible for the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors commerce practices and manages issues of consumer product safety.

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The rise of the Internet expanded the communications portfolio of the Committee, which is handled by the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. It deals with the regulation of all matters relating to telecommunications. It controls both domestic and international communications policy.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment directs national energy and environmental policy. This branch of the House Commerce Committee manages the nation’s nuclear industry. It oversees environmental protection legislation, such as the Clean Air Act.

The Subcommittee on Health manages legislation and oversight of health and medical policy. Food safety falls within its jurisdiction, as do issues of public health and epidemiology. It manages health care policy and oversees efforts to control drug abuse.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has no narrow and specific mandate. Instead, it serves as the general oversight arm of the House Commerce Committee. The House Commerce Committee’s duties involve working with and overseeing many components of the U.S. government, such as the Department of Energy and the Federal Communications Commission, and this subcommittee handles that work.

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