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Because they are in the minority, Republicans think an anti-incumbent sentiment will bolster their hopes of taking back the House, or at least cutting Democrats margin of rule. They say they think a seat on a major committee by virtue of the fact that it provides a direct link to major bills will turn out to be a liability for some Democrats in November.
Its very clear to me that the one-party rule has caused this party and the people who vote for it to be suspect by many, many Americans, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) said. Those who sustain that agenda will not be able to go around the country and to tout their successes. ... Were going to give them credit for their agenda.
Democrats agenda has included votes on health care and climate change, both of which went through the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Ways and Means panel also considered the health care bill, repeal of which is at the center of some Republican candidates platforms.
Still, many Democrats, including Murphy and Boyd, say theyd prefer to sit on a powerful committee and perhaps draw more fire than not. Anytime we have a chance to be involved in issues that are profoundly important, like health care and energy, that is beneficial to my constituents, said Rep. Zack Space, an Energy and Commerce member who supported both the climate change bill the House passed in July and the original health care bill that the House passed in November.
However, the Ohio Democrat later changed his vote to no when the health care bill came back from the Senate in March, while Boyd facing attacks from Lawson over his earlier opposition switched positions to vote for it.
Space, who faces a potentially tough path to a third term in a district that Republican candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won in 2008, added: If the only focus I had was on my political future, thatd be a little different. But its not. Im trying to make an impact in a positive way back home, and these committees give me the avenue to do that. ... Its no secret that theres a lot of resentment right now towards the institution of Congress. ... But the bottom line is if my constituents feel that Im working hard for them and my intentions are well-placed ... then theyll send me back.
Democratic leaders, for their part, disputed the notion that high-profile committee assignments might in any way hinder their colleagues efforts to keep their seats.
I dont think theres any difference in the stature or ability for Members to deliver on the high-profile committees this session differently from any other session, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees vice chairwoman for incumbent retention.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed Mollohans and Bennetts losses as local aberrations but acknowledged that incumbency brings challenges this campaign cycle.