While the specific names of U.S. Senate and House committees don't always foretell precisely what very specific areas they may oversee or regard as their own purview, the renaming of such a committee by its new chair, as is occasionally done at the start of a new session, particularly when control of the chamber changes hands from one party to another, can be very telling.
I believe this may be one such instance where quite a bit can actually be read into the new name for what had previously been the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee's "Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights"...
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and announced the members of the six subcommittees this week. With Grassley's announcement, the subcommittee formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights suddenly became the Subcommittee on the Constitution.
The new chairman of the newly named subcommittee is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). His office confirmed that it made the switch.
"We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights," said Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. "We will focus on these rights, along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution."
In his press release, Cornyn never used the phrase "civil rights" or "human rights." Instead, the release said he would be a "watchdog against unconstitutional overreach and will hold the Obama Administration accountable for its actions." Cornyn is an opponent of legislation that would restore federal oversight over some local and state election changes that were eliminated when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
Nancy Zirkin, executive VP at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noticed the named change and described it as "discouraging".
"Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws," she told HuffPo in a statement Friday. "We only hope that this troubling name change doesn't foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights."
Well, of course it foretells exactly that. Bank on it. Just as assuredly as hardline anti-immigration Senator Jeff Session (R-AL)'s new name for the Senate Judiciary committee's "Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security" foretells new plans (or lack thereof) for that committee.
As HuffPo noted, Sessions has renamed that committee to the "Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest".
What's in a name? In these cases --- particularly given what they've changed from and now to --- I'd say quite a bit. But, as they say, "elections have consequences". Hopefully all of those civil and human rights, not to mention refugees, all deliberately and ostentatiously thrown overboard by the U.S. Senate's new Republican regime, can hang on until January of 2017...