Rep. James R. Jones (D-Okla.), successfully challenging nominees of his party's Steering and Policy Committee, was elected by the Democratic Caucus yesterday to a seat on the House Budget Committee.
Jones had charged that the leadership-dominated Steering and Policy Committee had stacked the Budget Committee with liberals, a move he said would make the budget more difficult to pass on the floor where current sentiment favors spending cuts.
In the balloting that elected Jones and Reps. William M. Brodhead (D-Mich.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), Rep. Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.) was knocked off the budget panel.
Fisher's loss was "accidental," as one leadership aide explained it.
There are three representatives from the Ways and Means Committee on the budget panel. Fisher was one of those representatives last year, and on the first ballot in the caucus got 180 votes.
But in a runoff, Fisher was vying with Jones, and with Brodhead and Gephardt, both nominated by the Steering and Policy Committee. "People were choosing among the new guys and forgot about Fisher," a leadership aide said. Fisher was bottom man out on the second ballot with 125 votes.
The other upset of the day also involved Ways and Means.
Three Democrats challenged the Steering and Policy Committee nominations for five vacancies on Ways and Means. The challengers were Reps. Wyche Fowler Jr. (Ga.), Ronnie G. Flippo (Ala.) and James L. Oberstar (Minn.).
The Steering and Policy Committee had chosen Reps. Sam B. Hall Jr. (Tex.), James M. Shannon (Mass.), Cecil Heftel (Hawaii), Frank J. Guarini (N.J.) and Thomas J. Downey (N.Y.).
After four ballots, Fowler won a seat on Ways and Means knocking off Hall, a conservative. The result is to make the committee slightly more moderate. Fowler took U.N. ambassador Andrew Young's seat in a district with a large black population. But ideology apparently did not play as much of a role in the balloting as personality and regional loyalties.
In the balloting for committee chairmen, Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.) easily fended off a liberal challenge to win election as head of the House Appropriations Committee. The vote was 157 to 88.
Whitten's nomination by the Steering and Policy Committee was opposed by a liberal group led by Rep. Toby Moffett (Conn.). The liberals contended that Rep. Edward P. Boland (Mass.), next in line behind Whitten, was more in tune with Democratic party philosophy and would make a better chairman.
But Whitten was supported by House Speaker Thomas P. Tip) O'Neill. O'Neill, in a move he described as "unprecedented," took the floor to assure members Whitten would give them their "day in court." "Just because we disagree with his philosophy is no reason to turn a man down," O'Neill said.
All other chairmen nominated by the Steering and Policy Committee, including four new chairmen and 15 who held chairmanships last session, were easily elected by the caucus.
The four new committee chairmen are Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo.), Rules; Rep. Don Fuqua (D-Fla.), Science and Technology; Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), District of Columbia; and Rep. James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.), Post Office and Civil Service.
The election of Rep. Charles E. Bennett (D-Fla.), expected to become chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, was postponed because the leadership cannot find anyone who wants to serve on the committee.