House Leadership Contests At-a-Glance
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 1998; Page A16
Here is a look at the leadership contests in the House of Representatives.
Speaker of the House: As the third-highest constitutional officer in the nation after the president and the vice president, the speaker presides over the 434 other members and ultimately shapes the congressional agenda. His ceremonial duties include gaveling the House into session in the morning, swearing in new members and welcoming the president when he delivers the State of the Union address. Of course, the speaker also has final say on just about everything, from where C-SPAN's cameras are aimed to what bills make it to the Senate. Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) is the only lawmaker running for the post.
Majority leader: This lawmaker oversees the House's floor operation, determining when votes occur and what bills are considered when the chamber is in session. Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), the current majority leader, faces a challenge from Republican Reps. Steve Largent (Okla.) and Jennifer Dunn (Wash.).
Majority whip: The whip is responsible for making sure the party's members fall in line during key votes -- hence the name. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the current majority whip who is running unopposed for reelection, has 65 members who canvass colleagues to gauge their sentiments on important bills. The whip is the key intelligence officer for the leadership, telling them whether legislation will fail or pass.
Conference chairman: This lawmaker's post is one of the least-defined, and its occupant does not wield the power of patronage the way other leaders do. The conference chairman frequently focuses on member services, distributing bill summaries and the agenda to lawmakers on a regular basis as well as providing background information on issues ranging from U.S. airstrikes to drafting a constituent letter. This leader also helps steer the party message, and runs the weekly closed meetings in which lawmakers debate their most pressing legislative issues. Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is facing a challenge from Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
National Republican Congressional Committee chairman: The NRCC chairman is, above all, a fund-raiser, making sure House Republicans have the money to wage campaigns. This lawmaker attends the weekly House leadership meetings and consults closely with the speaker on how to plot strategy for each election, from grass-roots efforts to television commercials. Republicans used to elect a member to this post until they won the majority in 1994, when Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) made it an appointed position and selected fellow Georgia Republican Rep. John Linder as chairman. Linder must now defend himself in an election against Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).
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