Tuesday's elections aren't expected to produce leadership changes among House Democrats, but the Republicans are stirring.
The defeat of Rep. Elford Cederberg (Mich.), senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has set off a chain reaction that ultimately could affect Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.).
And if newly elected House Republicans are as conservative as some people think, Rep. John B. Anderson (Ill.) may face the most severe challenge yet in his 10-year tenure as chairman of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 GOP job in the House.
Rhodes has drawn criticism front conservative House Republicans for unaggressive leadership and a willingness to compromise with the Democratic opposition. The sniping died down near the end of the last Congress, but it has not completely disappeared.
Stung by his critics and by suggestions that his leadership post was in jeopardy, Rhodes campaigned hard for about 60 Republicans, including about a dozen of the 36 new Republicans elected last Tuesday.
He also tried to bring more members into leadership positions and to soothe the conservatives by appointing one of their leaders, Rep. Bob Bauman (Md.), to the prestigious Rules Committee.
Rhodes also benefitted when the Republicans were able to make their presence felt on spending and tax cuts approved by Congress.
But talk of a challenge to the leadership still exits, partly because the conservatives believe the recent election confirms a trend toward their ideology.
There is one hitch, however. Almost all agree that only Republican Whip Robert Michel (Ill.) could successfully challenge Rhodes. But Michel is a close friend of Rhodes and a party loyalist, unlikely to mount a challenge on his own.
It would take a situation similar to 1964, when Gerald Ford ousted Charles Halleck as minority leader, sources say. Then three powerful Republicans, Melvin Laird, Charles Goodell and Donald Rumsfeld, organized the overthrow and presented Ford with almost enough votes to win before he even got in the race.
But Michel has another option, thanks to the surprise defeat of Cederberg.
Michel is in line to succeed Cederberg on Appropriations, but Republicans have traditionally not allowed a member to hold a leadership post and a ranking spot too.
However, behind Michel is Rep. Silvio Conte (Mass.), a man tagged as a "big spender" and too liberal for the majority of House Republicans.
So there is also talk that Rhodes could placate the conservatives and buy off the possibility of a challenge by backing a waiver allowing Michel to be both the whip and the top Republican on Appropriations, one of the most powerful committees in the House.
A Michael aide said only that he is "mulling over" his options."Whatever happens, he's in the catbird seat," he said.
There is also speculation that Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (Mich.), chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, might take on the liberal John Anderson for leadership of the Republican caucus, called the Republican Conference.
Because of the retirement of Rep. Del Clawson (Calif.) the chair of the Republican Policy Committee also is open, and Reps. Bill Frenzel (Minn.) and Bud Shuster (Pa.) are expected to be candidates. Frenzel is favored.
Frenzel would then give up his post as head of the Republican Research Committee, and a fight between moderate Lawrence Coughlin (Pa.) and conservative Trent Lott (Miss.) is expected for that spot.
By contrast, no surprises are expected when House Democrats meet Dec. 4 to elect leaders. Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (Mass.), Majority Leader Jim Wright (Tex.) and caucus chairman Thomas S. Foley (Wash.) are likely to win reelection easily. Rep. John Brademas (Ind.) is expected to be reappointed majority whip.
Democrats had a bruising three-way fight for majority leader in 1976 which Texan Wright won by one vote. Rep. Phillip Burton (Calif.), the loser of that one-vote election, made noises earlier this year about a rematch, but Wright campaigned hard for Democratic imcumbents and challengers, has the backing of the popular O'Neill and has done nothing to seriously upset his colleagues.
Burton's friends have advised him to save himself for a possible challenge to Wright when the Speaker post is open again. Burton seems likely to take that advice.
Meanwhile, Foley may appoint Burton to chair a caucus reform committee, a move that could set off sparks between Burton and the other contender in the 1976 majority leader contest, Rep. Richard Bolling (Mo.), who is expected to become chairman of the Rules Committee.
One of the main reform items on the House Democratic agenda in the next two years is a reorganization of the committee system, aimed at cutting the number of subcommittees and rationalizing overlapping jurisdiction of full committees.
Bolling headed a select committee that attempted to do just that in 1974, but he was defeated, largely through Burton's efforts.
Democratic leaders want to appoint another select committee on committees, but its work would probably have to filter through both Bolling's Rules Committee and Burton's caucus committee, which could revive hostilities between the two factions and tear the reform effort apart.