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Shrinking House Committees May Pinch Democratic Leaders

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House Democrats have questioned whether Caucus Chairman John Larson should give up his committee seat for another Member.

“They are really going to have an awakening to the realities of being in the minority,” the aide said. “This isn’t so much about what committees the elected leaders sit on, it’s about sharing the burden and softening the blow for as many people as possible.”

The aide added that the leadership members have a considerable amount of influence over legislation “regardless of what committee you sit on.”

Another Democratic aide said there is a growing sentiment among the rank and file that the leadership needs to acknowledge the “faith and trust” the Caucus has given them by re-electing the same team, despite the disastrous midterm election results.

“It would be a signal to the rank and file that everyone is seen as valuable,” the aide said, adding that committee assignments could be integral in retaining the Members who did not lose in 2010.

Republicans also will face a crunch for space on the most desirable committees. The influx of new Members and promises by the GOP to shrink committees mean they will also have some tough decisions to make among their own.

More than 40 current Republican lawmakers and incoming freshmen have requested positions on either Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce — far more than can be accommodated because the leadership has pledged to cut committee size on both sides of the aisle.

Both Boehner and Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stepped off their committees.

Not all rank-and-file Members were opposed to party leaders continuing to serve on sought-after committees.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who could lose his slot on Appropriations when the committee ratios are set, said he is not opposed to leaders also having committee slots.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “People have different areas of expertise. They’ve developed experience on committees, and that’s a positive.”

Steven T. Dennis and Anna Palmer contributed to this report.

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