ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE MAKE-UP COULD CHANGE TO REFLECT HOUSE GAIN OF FOUR DEMOCRATIC SEATS; SENATE COMMITTEE LIKELY TO RETAIN CURRENT RATIOS
The House Energy & Commerce Committee may change its current ratio 25 Democrats to 17 Republicans to reflect the Democrats' apparent net gain of four House seats in the Nov. 8 national election. A four-seat gain would give the Democrats an overall 261-175 margin. Chaired by Rep. Dingell (D-Mich), the 42-member committee is not likely to add an extra position for a Democrat. However, the panel's ratio could be changed by a reduction formula: for example, two Republican seats and a single majority seat may be cut. Final committee ratios and member assignments will not be decided in the House until the representatives' two parties separately meet in a caucus scheduled for Dec. 5-7. As of Nov. 11, the size of the Democrats' gain in the House was not conclusive. During a count of absentee ballots, Rep. Chappel (D-Fla.) had fallen behind his Republican opponent Craig James. A recount is planned for the contest, and if Chapell is reelected, the House majority will have grown by five. However, absentee ballots were being counted in at least two other states, Oregon and Washington, where Democrat candidates held small leads over their Republican opponents. Rep. Dowdy (D-Miss.), who also sat on the Health Subcommittee, failed in a Senate bid and is the only Energy & Commerce Committee member who will not return to the House for the 101st Congress. No other changes are being predicted for the Health Subcommittee. Chairman Waxman (D-Calif.) was reelected by a 75%-25% margin, and Ranking Minority Member Madigan (R-Ill.) won his race with 72% of the electorate. In the Senate, the Labor & Human Resources Committee and other legislative panels are not expected to alter their ratios despite the Democrats' gain of one seat that increased their advantage to 55-45. As in the House, Senate committee assignments will not be made official until after separate party caucuses. Senate Democrats are expected to elect their leadership at a Nov. 29 meeting. Overall, the elections have caused more changes in Senate committees with jurisdiction over health issues than in corresponding House committees. Several faces will change on Sen. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) committee. In addition to Sen. Quayle's (D-Ind.) election to Vice President, two other Republican members will not return. Sen. Stafford (Vt.) retired and Sen. Weicker (Conn.) was defeated by his Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Joseph Lieberman. Weicker had cosponsored Chairman Kennedy's legislation to require employer-funded health insurance, a bill that generated substantial opposition from Connecticut businesses. Sen. Hatch (R-Utah) is likely to remain ranking minority member on the committee. He was said to be considering that post on the Judiciary Committee in the event that Sen. Thurmond (R-S.C.) takes the top Republican seat on the Armed Services Committee. Reportedly, neither senator will make a change. Similarly, Kennedy is expected to remain chairman of Labor & Human Resources and second Democrat on Judiciary, which would hold bearings on as many as three Supreme Court nominations in the next few years. (Justices Marshall, Brennan, and Blackmun are in their eighties.) The Health Subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee will see several new faces. Rep. Daub (R-Neb.) lost a Senate primary race, and Rep. Gregg (R-N.H.) was elected governor of his state. Another potential change could occur involving Ranking Republican Gradison (Ohio), who reportedly is being considered by President-Elect Bush's transition team for HHS secretary, a position in which Gradison is said to be interested. Subcommittee Chairman Stark (D-Calif.) beat his opponent by a 73%-23% voter margin. The only known change in chairman of a House committee with jurisdiction over health issues involves Rep. Gray (D-Pa.). Because House rules limit tenure for Budget Committee chairman, Gray will hand over his gavel to Rep. Panetta (D-Calif.). Other Democrats leaving the Budget Committee are Reps. Lowry (Wash.) and McKay (Fla.), who ran unsuccessful Senate campaigns. In addition, Ranking Minority Member Latta (Ohio) retired, and Republican Reps. Mack (Fla.) and Boulter (Texas) left to run for the Senate. Mack won; Boulter lost. The House Aging Committee will be without two Democrats and three Republicans from the 100th Congress. Reps. Bonker (D-Wash.) and Mica (D-Fla.) failed in Senate primaries. Rep. Jeffords (R-Vt.) was elected to the Senate, Rep. Wortley (R-N.Y.) retired, and Rep. Swindall (R-Ga.) was defeated. It appears that the Senate Finance Committee could remain unchanged even though a majority of its members were up for reelection; all were returned to Congress by voters. Sen. Bentsen (D-Texas) is expected to continue as chairman of the Medicare and tax committee. Sen. Packwood (R-Ore.) is similarly expected to retain his ranking Republican post. However, Sen. Mitchell (D-Me.) will relinquish his chairmanship of the Health Subcommittee if successful in his bid for Senate majority leader. His rivals for the position are Sens. Johnston (D-La.) and Inouye (D-Hawaii). (FOOTNOTE) Chart omitted.
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