The House Democratic Caucus refused yesterday to give in to appeals by the Republican minority for greater representation in the coming 97th Congress on four major committees, thus dealing a setback to Rep.-elect Stanford E. Parris (R-Va.), who had hoped to claim a "virginia seat" on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Parris and the 51 other incoming Republicans reacted to the decision by complaining, in a letter to House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, that the decision "will imprison 52 new votes and subvert the democratic process."
Voting in secret, House Democrats made few changes in the ratio on four critical committees, deciding that the Democrats would outnumber Republicans 11 to 5 on Rules (no change), 33 to 22 on Appropriations (from 36 to 18); 18 to 12 on Budget (from 17 to 8) and 23 to 12 on Ways and Means (from 24 to 12).
The new makeup of the House will be 243 Democrats and 192 Republicans compared to the current 274 and 159. Last month's election victories prompted the GOP to declare that "the appointment of seats on House committees should be proportioned to the percentage of party affiliation, and thus reflect the 56-44 ratio of the House. This approach is democratic, fair and just," wrote Hank Brown, representative-elect from Colorado, who is president of the GOP freshmen.
Parris and the other new Republican congressman from Northern Virginia, Frank Wolf of the 10th District, may not know what committees they will serve on until Democrats complete their voting on ratios on the remaining committees.
Meanwhile, Parris and Wolf won internal party victories yesterday when they were elected to the National Republican Campaign Committee. Parris will represent Virginia and Wolf will be the freshman class member.