The history of the Committee on Energy and Commerce is the story of American prosperity and opportunity.
Our Committee was born on December 14, 1795 as the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures when the growing demands of the young nation required that Congress establish a permanent panel to exercise its constitutional authority to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States."
The Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, remains today as the body's principal guide in the promotion of commerce, public health, energy and technology.
The Committee is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee. Today it has responsibility for the nation's telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health research, environmental quality, the availability of affordable energy, and the continuance of interstate and foreign commerce. It oversees multiple cabinet-level departments and independent agencies, including the departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Transportation, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission.
As the new United States grew and Congress created new committees to deal with expanding policy concerns, this Committee asserted and maintained its dominant central position as the House's monitor of commercial progress. Its traditional role and changing focus is reflected in the evolution of its name, jurisdiction and practices.
In 1819, we became the Committee on Commerce as Committee responsibilities expanded beyond the creation of navigational aids and oversight of the nascent federal health service to include foreign trade policy. The name changed again in 1891, becoming the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. That durable title sufficed for 90 years, when the Committee assumed its present name in 1981 to emphasize its leading role in the nation's energy policy.
Today, the wide-ranging work accomplished by the Committee on Energy and Commerce builds on a breathtaking record of achievement that began with building lighthouses and supervising the federal government's health service for sick and disabled seaman, a function that developed into the Public Health Service and National Institutes of Health. The Committee's overarching role in health, safety, and commerce can be traced to passage of the milestone legislation like the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Our Committee's prominent place in Congress is the direct consequence of the men and women who served here and who kept pace with the changing world for more than two centuries. The essence of the work of ensuring economic growth now encompasses responsibility for the technological advance of a lifetime, the Internet.
From welcoming merchantmen home from treacherous seas and caring for disabled sailors, to overseeing commerce by ship, rail and then aircraft, to our work on drugs, food and advancing freedom in the burgeoning digital marketplace, the House Energy and Commerce Committee continues to assure the health and wealth of the richest nation in human history.