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A look at who's on tap to lead House committees under the new GOP majority

By Paul Kane and Rachel Van Dongen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:39 PM

Administration

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.

Agriculture

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.

Appropriations

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.

Armed Services

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.

Budget

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.).

Financial services

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.)

Bachus is in line to chair this key panel for at least two years, but many of this committee's junior members have questioned his leadership abilities. During the 2008 Wall Street bailout talks, Bachus attended negotiations and appeared to endorse the effort, only to back away at times. Next in line behind him is Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), whose proximity to Wall Street makes him a natural ally, but he is already positioned to chair the Homeland Security panel. More likely -- if not now, then in two years -- is Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.) as chairman.

Foreign affairs

The chairman: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

The first Cuban American and woman of Hispanic origin elected to the House, Ros-Lehtinen represents the Miami area. She was one of the three Republicans who did not sign the 1994 Contract with America because she believed it was inhumane to deny welfare benefits to legal immigrants. But her politics will represent a stark contrast with her predecessor and the White House. Ros-Lehtinen opposed any overtures to Fidel Castro and will probably oppose any White House pressure on Israel. According to Foreign Policy, she will probably push for more strongly enforcing U.S. sanctions on Iran while cutting the foreign aid budget in the authorization bill.

Homeland security

The chairman: Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.)

The voluble King would be making a return trip to the helm of this panel, which he chaired from 2005 until Democrats regained control of the House in 2006. A TV-ready moderate Republican, King has regularly championed money for his home state after 150 residents of his Long Island district were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Overseeing the goliath that is the Homeland Security Department, King will probably challenge arbitrary funding formulas ¿ in the past, he has complained that New York will "never" get enough money ¿ and he wants to see terrorists tried at military commissions and kept at an open Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Permanent select Committee on Intelligence

The chairman: Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)

With the pending retirement of current ranking Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), Rogers is the leading candidate to become chairman of this panel. Rogers is a former FBI agent with a background that is made to order for overseeing the nation's web of intelligence agencies.

Judiciary

The chairman: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.)

A 20-year veteran of the Judiciary panel and a former head of its Immigration subcommittee, Smith is one of the most influential Republicans on immigration issues . In 1996, Smith rewrote the country's immigration laws to speed deportation; limited parole and bond for certain offenses for illegal immigrants; and expanded deportable offenses. He also endorsed a bill that would have changed the 14th Amendment to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. In 2005, Smith sponsored a bill that ended birthright citizenship, but it did not advance. He also wants to construct a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Look for this committee to be all immigration, all the time.

Small business

The chairman:

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Kan.)

A staunch Republican who wants to stop legal immigration until the borders are fully secured, Graves rose to the ranking membership of the Small Business panel during just eight years in the House. He has generally toed the GOP line on economic issues, opposing the 2008 Wall Street bailout, 2009 economic stimulus and pushing for extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts, as well as the elimination of the alternative minimum tax.

Standards of official conduct

The chairman:

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.)

Like the Rules Committee, the ethics chairmanship is a direct appointment by the speaker. Bonner has already been serving in the top GOP spot and is almost certain to remain there. He has overseen investigations into alleged violations of Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Fla), and he will probably be needed to remain in that highly-sensitive spot.

Transportation and infrastructure

The chairman:

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.)

A 17-year House veteran, Mica played a key role in developing the post-Sept. 11 airport security system. He leapfrogged the seniority system to claim the chairmanship of the Transportation panel in 2006, and it looks as if he'll make a return trip in 2011. A former chairman of the aviation subcommittee after the 2001 attacks, Mica helped create the Transportation Security Administration, though he wasn't always pleased with the results. He also wrote successful legislation allowing cargo-plane pilots to carry guns in the cockpit. He has generally worked with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion on steering funds for projects to both of their districts.

Veterans affairs

The chairman:

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.)

With ranking Republican and former chairman Steve Buyer (Ind.) retiring, Stearns is next in line to chair the panel. But there could be some intrigue here if Stearns decides to bid for the powerful Energy and Commerce post, where he is the fourth-ranking Republican. Behind Stearns on Veterans was Nathan Deal (R), who resigned this year and just won his bid for Georgia governor.

Natural resources

Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)

A former House ethics committee chairman who came to Washington with the class of 1994, Hastings served a short stint at the helm of that panel during the contentious investigation into former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). This committee has jurisdiction over federal land- and water-use issues, which have a big impact on Hastings's central Washington district. Post-election, Hastings said the committee must provide "much-needed oversight" of Obama administration policies that have gone "unchecked" for two years, especially on such things as the "de facto offshore drilling moratorium, potential new monument designations and plans to lock up vast portions of our oceans through an irrational zoning process."

Oversight and government reform

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Issa has been not-so-subtly hinting for months at his ambitious agenda if he were to become chairman of this subpoena-empowered panel. But Issa has already signaled that even Republicans won't be immune to his bureaucratic dragnet; he plans to target the George W. Bush and Obama administrations' handling of the mortgage crisis, as well as the now-renamed Minerals Management Service, which issues permits for offshore oil drilling. One of Issa's first planned acts isn't a terribly partisan one: He is seeking to give subpoena power to the government's inspectors general. But the work of Obama's "czars," or informal advisers unconfirmed by the Senate, are also on the Republican's watch list.

Rules

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.)

Dreier is expected to retain his position atop what is the most arcane, yet incredibly powerful, committee on Capitol Hill. This chairmanship is exempt from term limits and is directly appointed by the speaker, and Boehner has stacked it with close allies such as Dreier and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.). They set the ground rules for every key legislative debate that occurs, taking their cue from the speaker's office.

Science and technology

Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.)

Hall turns 88 in May, but he is widely expected to take the gavel at this committee. The panel may lack prominence, but it will allow him to protect his state's interest in NASA programs.

Ways and means

The chairman: Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)

The low-key Camp beat back a 2008 challenge from Rep. Wally Herger (Calif.) to nab the ranking Republican slot on this key panel, with jurisdiction over taxes and trade. Although Camp has ties to some moderate Republicans, he has generally voted with conservatives. He supports fully extending the Bush tax cuts and was vocally opposed to the 2010 health-care overhaul; he might lead the large bloc of incoming House freshmen who want to defund or work to repeal it. He is likely to try to dislodge stalled free-trade agreements and seek further bilateral pacts.

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