A committee by any other name…

January 17, 2011

As of Jan. 5, the House Education and Labor Committee is back to officially being called the Education and the Workforce Committee.

The change returns the committee to what it was called during a 10-year period beginning in 1997 when Republicans were the majority in the House. (It was briefly called the Economic and Education Opportunities Committee when the GOP first gained control of the chamber in 1995.)

Following the 2006 elections, Democrats changed the committee back to its original name. And I mean original – the Education and Labor Committee was first formed in 1867. The name has more or less stuck ever since.

A republican committee spokesperson said the current name was selected in the '90s to reflect the committee's jurisdiction. "The committee oversees a wide range of policies, programs, agencies and offices that affect the American workforce as a whole, and this name reflects that broad responsibility and inclusiveness," the spokesperson said in an e-mail to "Washington Wire."

But others see the name change as something a bit more partisan than that. AFL-CIO blogger Mike Hall called the change "petty," and suggested it had to do with Republicans wishing to disassociate the name of the committee from labor unions. (The committee spokesperson did not comment on that assertion when asked.)

So this is either an argument of semantics or a petty, partisan dispute. Either way, it's not necessarily a good way to start off a new Congress.