Update: This article has been updated to reflect an additional committee assignment for Rep. Gabe Vasquez
NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As a contentious new U.S. Congress gets underway in Washington D.C., New Mexico’s three representatives in the U.S. House have been assigned seats on some higher profile committees on the Hill. The latest assignments for New Mexico’s three Democratic House members come as Republicans have taken control of the federal legislative chamber with a slim 222 to 214 majority in the 118th Congress.
Teresa Leger Fernandez
A second-term representative from Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico, Teresa Leger Fernandez has been nominated to one of the most powerful committees in Congress: the House Rules Committee. Over the last seven years, the committee has exercised vast power in the process of crafting legislation, as the House debated most bills under “closed” or “structured rules.”
Those rule processes often curtailed or eliminated the amendments House members could raise on bills up for consideration. Thursday, Republican House lawmakers opened debate on what’s said to be the first bill under a “modified-open rule” on the House floor in seven years.
Rep. Leger Fernandez appeared alongside ranking Democratic Rules Committee Member Jim McGovern (D-MA) in a video posted to Twitter Thursday. Leger Fernandez said of the appointment, “This is how we protect what we love in rules, because [the] Rules [committee] rules.”
In a news release, Leger Fernandez expanded on her role on the committee, saying “the Rules Committee is instrumental in influencing all major legislation that heads to the House Floor – we worked extensively with the Committee to pass the Hermit’s Peak/ Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act and secure justice for those communities.” Leger Fernandez was also reappointed to the Committee on Education and the Workforce (formerly known as the “Education and Labor Committee”) which she served on in the 117th Congress.
Representing Albuquerque and parts of southeast New Mexico in D.C., Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury has been named to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. The committee is expected to produce some dramatic political moments over the next two years.
Several hot button topics are expected to be debated in the Oversight and Accountability Committee by some of the most prominent members of Congress. In an op-ed published last year, the committee’s new leader, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) said the committee will analyze the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the border, pandemic relief fraud, the origins of COVID-19 and the business of the Biden family.
Stansbury will be shoulder to shoulder with Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Lauren Boebert (CO), and Paul Gosar (AZ) among several other Republicans. Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Katie Porter (CA) and Jamie Raskin (MD) will also sit on the committee among other Democrats.
Stansbury tweeted about the appointment Friday saying she is “excited to join [Representative Raskin]’s Truth Squad with an A-Team of [Oversight Democrats] to hold the House Republican Majority accountable and uphold the values that New Mexicans and all Americans hold dear.” Stansbury is in her second term in the U.S. House, after winning a special election to the seat in 2021.
She has also been reappointed to the House Committee on Natural Resources, a committee she served on in the 117th Congress. According to a news release from the Congresswoman, the committee’s jurisdiction includes legislation and congressional oversight on “the ongoing climate crisis; environmental justice; public lands, waters, oceans, wildlife, and cultural resources; energy development and mining; Indigenous affairs; the U.S. Insular Areas; and activities of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.”
New Mexico’s newest House member, Representative Gabe Vasquez will serve on the House Armed Services Committee. The committee plays a significant role in consideration of the U.S.’ annual defense authorization bill, covering most matters related to the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.
In a statement posted to Twitter Thursday, Vasquez mentioned the significance of New Mexico’s role in national defense, citing the state’s various laboratories and bases among the military presence. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Defense, New Mexico received $3.3 billion in defense contract and personnel spending between July 2020 and June 2021, roughly the 33rd most out of all 50 states.
That same report placed New Mexico in 15th place among the United States for defense spending as a share of the state’s GDP. New Mexico has eight active military installations.
“New Mexico’s role in our nation’s defense has been a critical piece to the state’s economy,” Vasquez said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Service members often remain in [New Mexico] to become integral members of our communities.”
Vasquez announced an additional appointment Friday to the House Agriculture Committee. According to a recent write up by KRQE News 13 news partner The Hill, “the Agriculture Committee has jurisdiction over federal agricultural policies and retains oversight duty of a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture.”
Vasquez represents New Mexico’s U.S. House District 2, representing much of southern New Mexico and the the westside of Albuquerque. Vasquez defeated incumbent Republican Yvette Herrell in the 2022 midterm election.