Senator begins term as chairman of Senate Commerce Committee

Published 3:01 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is one of the most important in Congress.  With jurisdiction over most of the legislation that falls within the Constitution’s “commerce clause,” the committee oversees a wide variety of issues affecting our economy including telecommunications, the Internet, roads, ports, railways, airports, the Coast Guard, the oceans, and even space.

After many years serving as a member of this committee, I have the great honor of being its chairman for the current Congress.  The role will allow me to have a greater impact on national issues that are important to our state and to prioritize legislative solutions for our citizens.

Rural Broadband

One of President Trump’s top priorities for this Congress is to pass a major infrastructure improvement bill.  The committee will have an important role in that effort, but in today’s world, the flow of goods and people extends far beyond the rivers, roads, and railway lines that connect us.  The reach of the internet has become increasingly vital to economic activity.  Before becoming full committee chairman, I chaired the subcommittee that oversees communications issues, where I worked to promote the broadband development that our rural communities need.  These rural areas, which encompass most of our state, should be just as connected as their urban counterparts.

We still have work to do, and expanding connectivity is only part of the equation.  The committee also has the crucial task of working to ensure that consumers are protected when using the internet’s many applications and services.

Supporting the Gulf Coast Economy

Gulf of Mexico issues also play a prominent role on the Commerce Committee’s agenda.  Many Mississippians’ livelihoods depend on the health of our fisheries and the maritime trade facilitated by our coastline.  I am an advocate for innovative approaches like aquaculture to strengthen our seafood production, as well as the use of unmanned maritime technology to learn more about Gulf’s rich resources.  The missions of the Coast Guard, which is overseen by the committee, are instrumental in protecting these resources.  These service members not only help stop drugs from reaching our ports, but they also patrol our coasts for vessels seeking to take fish from the Gulf illegally.

Space Exploration

Policies from the Commerce Committee reach far into outer space, with the authorization of NASA projects that will keep America competitive in the final frontier.  Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is NASA’s largest facility for testing rocket engines and has been part of our space history since before the moon landing.  I look forward to seeing how this facility will continue to be used to push the boundaries of human knowledge and space exploration.  Closer to earth, the committee oversees the satellites that are overwhelmingly responsible for the data in our weather forecasts.  These accurate forecasts can protect lives and property under threat of natural disasters, including the extreme flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes that occasionally jeopardize Mississippi communities.

I feel fortunate to have been chosen by my colleagues for this leadership position on the committee, and I am excited to get to work.  Our legislative agenda promises not only to impact our nation’s economic growth but also shape our state’s contributions to this success.