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Lawmakers jockey for plum posts

With the new majority party expected to pick up two seats on the Senate appropriations committee and eight on the House committee, Democrats are lining up to vie for spots on the leadership roster.  By ,
/ Source: National Journal

Democrats are lining up to make their pitches for plum assignments on the Appropriations committees, with the new majority party expecting to pick up two seats on the Senate panel and as many as eight in the House.

Few changes from the current roster of top Democrats are likely today when the Senate Democratic Steering Committee is expected to make its picks. Incoming Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., is likely to also become chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., might also become chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

There is precedent among Senate Democrats for such a dual role, as Byrd kept a subcommittee chairmanship when he was majority leader, as did former Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., is considered a safe bet to be added to the Appropriations Committee, having previously served there during the Democrats' last stint in the majority, from mid-2001 until 2003.

If, as expected another committee seat is open, there is no shortage of interested candidates on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Republicans might get to add one senator to the panel, after two GOP appropriators lost re-election.

Hopefuls include outgoing Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, but she would have to give up a seat on her other "Super A" committee, Armed Services, as would other Appropriations aspirants.

The House field is wide open, with a number of lawmakers having already thrown their hats in the ring and others who were candidates in previous Congresses. Selections will not be made until after House Democrats elect their party leadership, scheduled for Thursday.

The new slate of subcommittee "cardinals" will not be known for some time, but there might be a shakeup if Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member John Murtha, D-Pa., defeats Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., for Democratic leader and has to give up his subcommittee gavel.

Democrats who have expressed interest in joining the committee include Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, who is close to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. McCollum asked to be considered in March, when Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., announced he would retire at the end of the year.

Others include California Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Mike Honda, whose bids might benefit from Pelosi's ascendancy. A Schiff aide said his boss sent a letter to the House Democratic Steering Committee and has been talking to party leaders about his efforts on behalf of building the majority. Those include serving as part of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel's "kitchen cabinet" during the campaign, the aide said.

Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida, who holds the seat previously occupied by his mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Fla., has "made it known" he is interested in her old panel slot, a spokesman said. Rep. Timothy Ryan of Ohio has also expressed interest. He and Meek could both benefit from having organized support for Murtha's campaign for majority leader.

Also weighing a bid for the Appropriations Committee is Rep. Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, although a spokeswoman said he is in line to be chairman of an Education and the Workforce subcommittee and might opt to stay put.

As an "exclusive" committee, members of both parties are prohibited from serving on another panel in addition to Appropriations except in special circumstances.

Others who have expressed interest in the past include Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa, who has perennially tight races and might further insulate himself with a seat on the powerful spending panel, as well as Reps. Darlene Hooley of Oregon and Rush Holt of New Jersey.

No Republican seats will be open on the House panel. But if Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Henry Bonilla, R-Texas loses his December runoff and Pelosi keeps the committee at its present size, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., the most junior Republican on the committee, might get to keep his seat.