A look at who's on tap to lead House committees under the new GOP majority
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:39 PM
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.)
Fresh off a tough 2010 reelection battle against Amerish Bera (D), Lungren is poised to assume the gavel of the panel that controls his colleagues' office and committee salaries, along with contested House elections. The California Republican knows the House well, having served his first 10-year stint in the lower chamber, from 1978 to 1988. He served two terms as California attorney general before making his way back to the House in 2005. His committee could end up being the poisonous battleground for reducing committee staffing in the new House GOP majority.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
A lifelong coin collector who would be the first Oklahoman to wield the gavel of the panel, Lucas swept into the House during the last GOP wave in 1994. A champion of farm subsidies, he is fiercely against emissions trading, which he calls a national energy tax. Lucas has dubbed the Obama administration "no friend to agriculture," according to the Daily Oklahoman, and can be expected to fight its agenda every day at the helm of the key committee.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.) is the ranking Republican member and would be in line for the chairman's gavel except that he is at the end of his six-year limit of holding the top spot on the panel that doles out more than $1 trillion annually to federal agencies. Also, conservative activists think that Lewis has spent too freely while atop the committee, including past support for billions of dollars a year in earmarks. Next in line is Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who would like the top spot but also has a similar earmark record. Lewis wants to get a waiver from House speaker-to-be John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) because he has served just two years as chairman and four in the minority. In addition, one of the first key pieces of legislation will be a bill to cut $100 billion in spending, coming from the Appropriations Committee. Anyway this comes down, it is the biggest political headache for leadership.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.)
The California Republican is one of Boehner's closest allies and replaced John McHugh (N.Y.) as ranking minority-party member when Obama made McHugh the Army secretary. The former chairman of the Education and Labor panel represents military interests in his district, including Edwards Air Force Base, and needs to be prepared for a fight with the Pentagon over severe cuts to defense funding. McKeon has already promised tougher oversight of military programs, ensuring U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get the resources they need. Previously, he focused on restoring funding for missile defense and resolving the issue of Guantanamo Bay.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Called by Time magazine the GOP's answer to the "Party of 'No,'" the 40-year-old Ryan has challenged his party to return to the fiscal conservatism that once characterized it and that tea-partiers demanded. His message resounded far and wide, with Sarah Palin even mentioning him as a possible 2012 veep candidate. Ryan's policy proposals are actual quite dramatic: his "Roadmap for America's Future" is an attempt to balance the federal budget through unpopular entitlement reform such as moving toward privatizing Social Security for people under 55, and giving under-54 Medicare recipients vouchers for private insurance. Let the battle begin.
Education and Labor
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)
A former Marine Corp colonel who carried the "nuclear football" with the weapons-launch codes for President Jimmy Carter, Kline is a staunch conservative who will fight Democrats on both labor and education issues. In the 111th Congress, he helped to stall the Employee Free Choice Act, a top labor priority that contained the "card check" provision hated by business. In the 112th Congress, Kline will play the lead role in the expected overhaul of No Child Left Behind, and he isn't a big fan of the federal government's role in education. In a post-election statement, he said he would pursue "robust oversight" of education and labor programs, as well as seek education reform that "restores local control."
Energy and Commerce
Just as Lewis wants a waiver, so too does Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the oil and industry ally who is ranking member of what many consider the most powerful committee because of its oversight of almost every industry. Barton's six-year run, however, was highlighted by his apology to BP executives at a hearing after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and his relationship with leadership has always been rocky. If Barton is denied the waiver, the battle shifts to Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).