The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. James J. Delaney (D-N.Y.), became the fourth committee chairman to announce that he will not seek reelection to the House this fall.
Delaney's likely successor as chairman of the committee is Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo.), a veteran who, despite his 30 years in the House, has never chaired a standing committee.
Delaney, 77, a House veteran of 32 years and eight in seniority, said simply he has lost his "zip" and "enthusiasm" and finds himself just "physically tired."
Along with Delaney, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, George H. Mahon (D-Tex.), Science and Technology Committee Chairman Olin E. Teague (D-Tex.) and John J. Flynt Jr. (D-Ga.), chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, have announced they will retire.
A silver-haired, old-style Irish pol, Delaney could be both blunt and sarcastic and witty when presiding over his committee or the New York delegation meetings he chaired as "dean" of the delegation. "Wait a minute, wait a minute, one fool at a fime," Delaney once said, trying to restore order at a boisterous meeting of the New Yorkers.
Delaney often rolled up 90 percent of the vote in his Queens district by running on the Republican and Conservative tickets as well as the Democratic.
But this year, the Conservative Party, unhappy with his more liberal voting record recently, had announced they would not endorse him again, and a Republican challenger has filed on the GOP ticket.
Still, the announcement came as something of a surprise. It had been widely believed that if Delaney were not going to run again he would have announced by April 30 to avoid having to file a financial disclosure statement, since those who announced their retirement by that date were exempted from filing. But Delaney, who liked to play the stock market, did file, showing holdings of some 30 different stocks, worth at least $300,000.
And Delaney said yesterday he did not decide until "over the weekend" to retire.
While the Rules Committee is not as powerful or independent as it once was - appointments to it are now under control of the speaker - it still remains an important committee through which almost all major legislation must pass in order to get to the floor. The comittee's power stems from its ability to set the terms of debate and even decide which amendments the House will be allowed to vote on. In the 1950s and 1960s the committee blocked many bills, particularly civil rights bills, from getting to the floor, and although this is rare now, it still happens.
Bolling, a major house strategist and reform leader, has handled most of the controversial bills before the committee for the last several years as a more or less de facto leader of the committee under Delaney and his predecessor, Ray J. Madden (D-Ind.).
Bolling is expected to be a strong chairman, with the committee playing a more active role in revising the rules and procedures of the House.