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McKeon Earns Gavel; DeLay Joins Approps

As expected, the House Republican Steering Committee tapped Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) to become chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee on Wednesday and also awarded a coveted Appropriations panel slot to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

While the assignments must still be approved by the full Republican Conference — a vote could occur as early as today during the House GOP retreat — the selections are expected to be confirmed.

McKeon will take over the Education panel in the wake of Majority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) ascension to the No. 2 leadership spot last week. Under House rules, members of leadership are barred from holding a full committee gavel.

“This is something that I had been working on for about a year, but I was planning on it happening a year from now,” McKeon said Wednesday, referring to the fact that Boehner would have been term-limited out of the chairmanship in 2007 under Conference rules.

McKeon waged a solitary campaign for the post after announcing his intentions on Friday. Although Rep. Mike Castle, also a senior member of Education, had expressed interest in seeking the chairmanship in the 110th Congress, the Delaware Republican did not make a formal bid for the post. In addition, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who vied for the post in 2001, announced that he was not interested in the position and would instead focus his energies on a bid for the Transportation and Infrastructure chairmanship next year.

“I’m pleased with the selection of my good friend and colleague, Buck McKeon, for the chairmanship of the Education & the Workforce Committee,” Boehner said in a statement. “We worked closely together during my tenure as Chairman, and I have seen firsthand his ability to lead on key education and competitiveness issues.”

Rules Chairman David Dreier (R), who nominated McKeon, a fellow Californian, for the post during the Steering panel meeting, also offered praise.

“He’s going to be a great chairman and we’re excited,” Dreier said. McKeon will become the sixth Golden State lawmaker to chair a full panel in the 109th Congress.

Although McKeon will need to select a replacement to take over the Education subcommittee on 21st century competitiveness, which he had chaired since 1995, he said he will not make that decision until his appointment is approved by the full Conference.

With his assignment to the Appropriations panel, DeLay will reclaim the seat from which he took a leave of absence when he won the Majority Leader’s post in 2002. The Texan will fill a vacancy created when ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) resigned from the House in December.

“It’s great to be back,” DeLay said in a statement. “The Appropriations Committee’s agenda touches on every challenge now facing the people of the 22nd district, and my votes will reflect Texas values.”

Although DeLay will retain his seniority on the panel, placing him sixth among the current membership, he will not take on leadership of a subcommittee.

Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) announced Wednesday that DeLay will be assigned to the subcommittees on Science, State, Justice and Commerce as well as Homeland Security.

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