Miller has sat on the resources panel since almost the first day he first set foot in the Capitol as the 7th District representative back in 1975. He subscribed to then-Rep. Phil Burton’s advice that a new member with an eye toward gaining seniority and influence should pick committees and stay there.
The Natural Resources Committee oversees a swath of environmental and resource policy arenas including the Endangered Species Act, parks, fisheries, forestry, mining, oceans, water and Native Americans.
Under the reduced numbers of committee posts and the need to share what remains with his colleagues, Miller cannot keep both his seats on resources and the Education and Workforce Committee, known under Democratic control as the House Education and Labor Committee.
Leaving resources is tough, Miller agreed.
“But I have been, in the last few years, as I served as chair of the Education and Labor Committee, on the Resources Committee by virtue of waiver,” Miller said. “Now, with the election outcome and cut in the size of many committees, many members won’t have their first or even their second choice of committees.”
The House Democratic leadership team is expected to finalize its committee assignments early next week.
An avid environmentalist with deep resume on water and environmental legislation, Miller was the Natural Resource Committee’s chairman from 1991-1994.
When Democrats lost the majority in 1994, the veteran legislator stepped into the committee’s No. 2 post for the next six years. He often waged very public policy battles with then-Rep. Richard Pombo, his GOP neighbor from Tracy who became committee chairman and sought to alter the Endangered Species Act.
In 2000, Miller gave up his ranking member seat on House Resources for the same job on the Education and Labor Committee, the other panel he has served on since 1975.
He would become the committee chairman from 2007-2010, after Democrats retook the majority, and has now returned to ranking member status.
Through a waiver of the House’s Byzantine rules that dictate how many committees and in what role a member may serve at the same time, Miller had kept his spot on the Resources Committee after he stepped down as its ranking member.
That all changed earlier this month when Republicans announced, as part of its reform package, overall committee size reductions. Democrats also lost seats as a result of the GOP victory, as the controlling party maintains a majority vote on each committee.
Despite the loss, Miller vowed to remain vigorously engaged in environmental policy, particularly water and the fight over how to cure the California Delta of its ills.
“We have a working group of the (congressional) members from the Bay Area and Northern California, for water,” Miller said. “I suspected I would lose the resources seat after the election, but it’s critical to stay in involved, for our economy, environment and quality of life.”