Monday, Dec. 20, 2010 | 1:22 p.m.
He hasn’t yet had to cast his first vote, but so far, Joe Heck’s introduction to Washington appears to be going off without a hitch.
Last week, Heck’s committee assignments were finalized — those being where he’ll be expected to do the bulk of his legislative work — and the freshman congressman appears to have filled his wish list, with an extra little perk.
Heck’s going to be serving on the intelligence, homeland security, and education and labor committees – the latter two representing assignments he had his eye on even before he got elected.
What drew Heck to those committees appears to be a mix of both his interests and where he felt his pre-congressional experience could be put to best use.
On the Education and Labor committee, he’ll be weighing in on policy areas of critical importance to Nevada, as it struggles to recover from last-in-the-nation status in both employment and graduation rates. But he’ll also be able to bring some of his expertise as a doctor to the table — Ed & Labor is one of three House committees that had jurisdiction over Obama’s health care bill during its drafting, which means it will again be contending with legislative health proposals as the GOP makes good on its pledge to pick apart the law as it stands.
Heck was drawn to Homeland Security early on as well, as an area in which he could use his background in the Army reserves, specializing in emergency preparedness and emergency treatment. The Department of Homeland Security, still relatively in its infancy, is an area that may experience several changes under GOP leadership, as new leaders will have the opportunity to try to affect some of the increased immigration — and terrorism — related security strategies they have been clamoring for under Democratic leadership.
Heck’s also been appointed as the only freshman to serve on the House Intelligence committee — a select group of lawmakers that serve as the House’s liaison with intelligence services.
The committee, hand-picked by Speaker-elect John Boehner, meets — often in secret — to hear and review testimony about the activities of the various intelligence agencies, and as such, have played an influential role in such events as the run-up to the Iraq war. The panel will likely play a significant role in Congress’ involvement in deciding the US course in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the brewing crisis between North and South Korea, and the Wikileaks diplomatic leak scandal.
Because much of the committee’s work deals with highly classified information, members have to sign a confidentiality pledge, and keep mum about what happens in secure meetings, or be kicked off.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Heck, who so far, has been keeping a low profile around the District, save for agreeing to have his first year be photographed and videotaped, documentary-style, for Roll Call, a subscription-only Capitol Hill publication mostly read by other lawmakers and lobbyists.
That’s a full roster — but don’t forget, Heck’s also part of the Republicans’ steering committee, and even with preliminary committee assignments complete, that spot doesn’t expire anytime soon. The Steering Committee continues to meet on policy issues, and adjust committee assignments throughout the year depending on the in and outflows of Congress.