Vern Ehlers

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Vern Ehlers
Vern Ehlers, official portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 3rd district
In office
December 7, 1993 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Paul Henry
Succeeded by Justin Amash
Member of the Michigan Senate
from the 32nd district
In office
1985–1993
Preceded by Paul B. Henry
Succeeded by Leon Stille
Member of the Michigan House of Representatives
from the 93rd district
In office
1983–1985
Preceded by John Otterbacher
Succeeded by Richard Bandstra
Personal details
Born Vernon James Ehlers
(1934-02-06)February 6, 1934
Pipestone, Minnesota, U.S.
Died August 15, 2017(2017-08-15) (aged 83)
Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Johanna Ehlers
Alma mater Calvin College
University of California, Berkeley
Occupation College Professor

Vernon James "Vern" Ehlers (February 6, 1934 – August 15, 2017) was an American politician. Ehlers represented Michigan in the United States House of Representatives from his 1993 victory in a special election until his retirement at the 2010 midterm elections. Prior to his time in Congress, Ehlers had spent eight years in the Michigan Senate and two in the Michigan House of Representatives. He was a member of the Republican Party.

Ehlers was the first research physicist to be elected to Congress;[1] he was later joined by Rush Holt, Jr. (D-NJ) and Bill Foster (D-IL).

Early life, education and academic career[edit]

Born in Pipestone, Minnesota, Ehlers attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids for three years before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned an undergraduate degree in physics and, in 1960, a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. His doctoral dissertation, "The nuclear spins and moments of several radioactive gallium isotopes", is available from University Microfilms International as document number 0227304. After six years of teaching and research at Berkeley, he moved back to Michigan and took employment at Calvin College in 1966, where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department.

Ehlers died on August 15, 2017 at the age of 83.[2]

Early political career[edit]

Ehlers served on the Kent County Board of Commissioners from 1975 to 1982. Ehlers served from 1983 to 1985 in the Michigan House of Representatives and then served from 1985 to 1993 in the Michigan Senate.[3]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

  • Co-chair of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ed Caucus
  • Peak Oil Caucus[5]
Chairman Ehlers greets Ranking Member Juanita Millender-McDonald at a hearing of the House Administration Committee.

Ehlers served as chairman of the House Administration Committee in the 109th Congress after Bob Ney resigned from the position.

A portrait of Ehlers during his service as chairman of the Administration Committee is in the House collection.[6]

Political positions[edit]

Ehlers was a moderate Republican. According to the National Journal, in 2006 his votes split 50-50 between "liberal" and "conservative." While strongly anti-abortion and supportive of lowering taxes, he was willing to break with his party on environmental and government spending issues. He was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership and Republicans for Environmental Protection. He was the only member of the Michigan Congressional delegation of either party to vote to raise fuel economy standards for automobiles in 2001[7] and 2005.[8]

Ehlers was a staunch advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006 he cosponsored H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act[9] and H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[10]

Owing to his votes in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment in both 2004 and 2006, as well as his votes against hate crimes legislation and prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, Ehlers was given a 0% rating by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating a voting record generally opposed to gay rights. However, in December 2010, Ehlers was one of fifteen Republican House members to vote in favor of repealing the United States military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on openly gay service members,[11][12][13] and one of eight Republicans to vote for the DREAM Act.[14]

Political campaigns[edit]

In 1993 Ehlers won a special election for the 3rd District, which had been vacant since Congressman Paul B. Henry died six months into his fifth term. He won a full term in 1994 and was re-elected six times with little significant Democratic opposition. Ehlers retired from Congress in 2010.[15]

Selected publications[edit]

Lead authored articles in scientific journals[edit]

Articles on science policy[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul B. Henry
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 3rd congressional district

1993–2011
Succeeded by
Justin Amash
Preceded by
Bob Ney
Chairman of the House Administration Committee
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Juanita Millender-McDonald