By CARL SMITH
The 113th Congress was sworn in Thursday, a class which included more than 90 freshmen lawmakers.
Mississippi’s House delegation — Reps. Gregg Harper, Alan Nunnelee, Steven Palazzo and Bennie Thompson — and Senate leaders — Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker — were amongst the representatives taking their oaths of office Thursday, a group which reflected no turnover from the previous body.
Harper, who was re-elected to a third term in November with 80 percent of the vote, will remain on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he is a member of three subcommittees: Environment and the Economy; Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade; and Oversight and Investigation. Harper will also return to the select Committee on House administration.
In a release, Harper reaffirmed his advocacy for American-produced energy, devotion to working with families raising special needs children and push for “sound federal policies that balance necessary reforms with healthy government oversight.”
“Empowering innovators and harnessing our domestic energy capabilities will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and hopefully lower prices as the pump,” he said. “We must advance ideas that stabilize fuel prices and build a steady supply of American energy, which leads to good-paying energy industry jobs.”
“As a member of Congress, I have relentlessly aimed to streamline federal programs and services intended to a be a support to youth with significant disabilities in transition from adolescence to adulthood,” Harper added. “With help of disability advocates from Mississippi and across the country, we will inspire continued success in this area so that our special needs children can reach their maximum potential.”
Cochran, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, was selected as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He also retained his seats on both the Appropriations and Rules committees.
“I am pleased the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee have entrusted me with the opportunity to be their ranking Republican member. I will use the experiences I’ve gained in serving on the committee since 1979 to help quickly advance a new farm bill that will meet the needs of our country’s farmers, small businesses and those who rely on the nutrition programs under the committee’s jurisdictions,” Cochran said in a release.
Wicker, who has represented Mississippi in the Senate since 2007 when former Sen. Trent Lott resigned, was elected to a full six-year term in November with 57.4 percent of the statewide vote. He was named Deputy Whip by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was elected Senate Republican Whip.
Mississippi’s junior Senator will remain on the Armed Services Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. In addition, he will serve on the budget Committee; the Environmental and Public Works Committee; and the Joint Economic Committee.
The JEC is a bipartisan panel composed of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats which was established under the 1946 Employment Act. The Secretary of Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve testify regularly before that board on the state of the economy.
The EPW Committee oversees infrastructure projects, including flood control and transportation systems. In the coming Congress, the committee is expected to draft a reauthorization for the Water Resources Development Act, which would prioritize flood control, wastewater and port infrastructure projects important to Mississippi.
Wicker called for President Barack Obama and Congress to reduce the federal deficit and address the national debt in a release Thursday.
“At $16.4 trillion, the debt is unsustainable, and the problem gets worse every day. All sides need to have an honest discussion about what we can afford and what we can do without,” he said in the release. “Leaders in Washington must work together and find areas where we agree. There were important successes in the last Congress, but too often turmoil and gridlock prevailed. We should restore confidence in the Senate as we work to solve problems.”
Wicker also pledged support for job creation and the elimination of unnecessary regulations in the release.
“… Far too many Mississippians are unable to find good, long-term employment,” he said. “We must rebuild a strong foundation for a lasting economic recovery that will benefit all Americans. Eliminating unnecessary regulations and promoting American energy production are two important steps in the right direction.”
The House also re-elected Republican Rep. John Boehner as speaker. Boehner won the two-year term with 220 votes. Despite House Republicans breaking ranks to approve a tax bill Tuesday, only nine GOP members voted for someone other than Boehner. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi received 192 votes.