Phil Barnett, Minority Staff Director, Full Committee

Amy Harder
National Journal

It’s no surprise that Democratic Staff Director Phil Barnett counts climate change among his very top issues. His boss, Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., does, too.

“You can’t do an environmental policy without dealing with climate change,” Barnett said.

Except for a short stint as the director of policy research of the Food and Drug Administration in 1996, Barnett has been with Waxman since 1989. As Waxman’s top policy aide over the years, he has had his hands in some of the most significant pieces of legislation Congress has passed, including the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Barnett, 55, first became familiar with energy and environment issues when he was in college. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., he spent his college summers leading monthlong expeditions for the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, a program that focuses on wilderness skills and leadership.

He later earned a law degree from Harvard University, where he met his wife—who was also a law student—while running along the Charles River.