With Republicans expected to have an excellent shot at winning back the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, talk is rampant about which members are poised to take over key committees. In most cases, the new chairmen of such powerful fiefdoms as the Ways and Means Committee and Budget Committee are considered done deals.
But three GOP sources tell the Center for Public Integrity that the final decisions about who will be running at least two key committees – Appropriations and Energy – won’t be made until after Thanksgiving.
Why the delay? In both cases, powerful members Jerry Lewis of California and Joe Barton of Texas, who respectively ran those committees (or served as their ranking members) for the maximum three terms, are seeking waivers to become chairmen again. The veteran chairmen are challenging Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Fred Upton of Michigan, who are in line to take these posts.
The four lawmakers vying for the panel chairmanships will present their cases to the House Republican Steering Committee soon after Nov. 15, but the final vote on who will get the coveted slots won’t happen until after the Thanksgiving recess, the sources say.
Both men face tough battles to obtain waivers, but some think that Lewis might be able to wrangle one because of his better ties with top GOP leaders, the sources say. Barton’s chances are poorer, say sources because of his widely publicized apology to the chief executive of BP at a July hearing.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, a Ohio Republican, said that the “timing of the Steering Committee meetings have not been announced.” But a leadership source confirmed to the Center that the final decision on who will be running these two major Committees will most likely come after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The job of running the Appropriations Committee is a highly sought after slot because it writes annual bills which allow billions in federal funds to be disbursed to various agencies and departments.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, now led by California Democrat Henry Waxman, is also viewed as a powerful panel with jurisdiction over health and prescription drug issues; telecommunications; oil, natural gas, coal, solar, nuclear, and electric energy; and interstate commerce.