United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy

United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy

The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE) was created in the wake of the explosion of the first atomic weapon over Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. The committee existed from 1946 to 1977, and has been described as one of the most powerful congressional committees in history. The United States Congress gave the JCAE exclusive jurisdiction over "all bills, resolutions, and other matters" related to civilian and military aspects of nuclear power, and made it the only permanent joint committee in modern times to have legislative authority.

The panel coupled these legislative powers with exclusive access to the information upon which its highly secretive deliberations were based. As overseer of the Atomic Energy Commission, the joint committee was also entitled by statute to be kept "fully and currently informed" of all commission activities and vigorously exercised that statutory right, demanding information and attention from the executive branch in a fashion that arguably has no equivalent today.

One major power wielded by the JCAE was the "Legislative Veto." This unique power enabled the JCAE to influence policy decisions while matters were pending. This enabled the JCAE to act as a co-decision maker with the executive branch rather than only providing congressional oversight of actions that had already occurred. The legislative veto power was later found to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1983. [ [http://www.cqpress.com/incontext/constitution/docs/legislation.html CQ Press : Current Events In Context : Constitution Day - "Legislation Declared Unconstitutional", CQPress.com] ]

During the 1970s, the committee's role in shaping nuclear policy began to diminish after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was created to replace the Atomic Energy Commission. Congress soon transferred the bulk of the joint committee's jurisdiction over civilian nuclear power to other standing congressional committees in the House and Senate. The joint committee was finally abolished on August 5, 1977.

Notable Members

*Richard B. Russell (R-GA), 1946-70
**Senator from Georgia and namesake for the Russell Senate Office Building

*Clare Booth Luce (R-CT), 1946
**U.S. Representative, American playwright, U.S. Ambassador to Italy

*Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-TX), 1947-48; 1951-1952
**U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Texas, Senate Majority Leader, Vice President of the United States, President of the United States

*Al Gore, Sr. (D-TN), 1953-70
**U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Tennessee, father of Vice President Al Gore

*Everett Dirksen (R-IL), 1962
**Senate Minority Leader and namesake for the Dirksen Senate Office Building

*Howard Baker (R-TN), 1971-76
**Senate Majority Leader, White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to Japan

Committee Members, 1946-1977

The joint committee had equal representation between both the House and Senate, with 5 majority and 4 minority members from each house. The committee was chaired by a senator from the majority party until the 83rd Congress, when the chairmanship began to alternate between a majority representative and majority senator.

79th Congress, 1946

80th Congress, 1947-1948

81st Congress, 1949-1950

82nd Congress, 1951-1952

83rd Congress, 1953-1954

ee also

*Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha


External links

* [http://collections.stanford.edu/atomicenergy/ Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Digital Library] hosted by Stanford University

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