Federal File

January 15, 1997 1 min read

The name game

The committee overseeing federal education laws will have a different name for the third consecutive Congress.

Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., announced last week that the committee he was again elected to chair will now be known as the Education and the Workforce Committee.

That’s not to be confused with the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, as it was known in the first two years of the Republican reign in the House, or the Education and Labor Committee, as Democrats dubbed it during their 40 years in the majority.

“The new name more clearly articulates the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the committee,” Mr. Goodling said the day after the 105th Congress convened. It also reflects Mr. Goodling’s independence from the leaders of his party.

In the days following the 1994 elections, Speaker-in-waiting Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and other conservative leaders said they wanted committee names to reflect their priorities.

They initially wanted to call the education panel the Economic Opportunity Committee. That name would have removed the committee’s association to unions, which traditionally throw their support behind Democrats, and school groups widely perceived as Democratic supporters.

But Mr. Goodling, a former superintendent and teacher and a long-time committee member, persuaded GOP leaders to insert “and Educational” in the name, to reflect the fact that panel is in charge of most federal school programs.

The problem with the compromise moniker was it was a mouthful. It also shared the initials of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency many Republicans accuse of enforcing racial and gender quotas.

The new committee name won’t have that baggage. “It’s just a bit easier to say,” Mr. Goodling said. And, since labor is a difficult word for many Republicans to pronounce, going back to the Democrats’ name was not an option.

Mr. Goodling said that his committee will focus over the next two years on “quality in education, ... the rising cost of going to college, and improving education for children with disabilities.” It also will examine ways “to encourage flexibility in the workplace and fairness for American workers.”

The House started using the new name immediately.