House GOP Sacrifices 76 Panel Seats, Democrats Lose Eight

Updated: 9:57 p.m.

House Republicans will cut 84 committee slots in the 112th Congress, but most will come from the majority side, GOP leadership sources said Tuesday.

Eight existing minority positions will be eliminated in the 112th Congress, while 76 will be cut from the majority. Although the cuts are relatively small for Democrats, they still pose a problem for outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who already must slice dozens of Members from top committees as Democrats transition into their reduced role as the minority party.

Retirements and re-election losses will do some of the paring for the California Democrat, but she will still be forced to disappoint many junior Members who supported her bid to remain as the top House Democrat, despite losing the majority in the November elections.

Because both parties will have to cut back on the size of the panels, Republicans said the majority-minority ratios will remain about the same as they were in the past two Congresses.

Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have repeatedly said every committee will be trimmed in the 112th Congress in order to improve committee productivity and cut costs, leaving Democrats anxiously waiting to see how many seats would be removed.

“Reps. Boehner and Cantor have been clear that committees will be held accountable for doing their work particularly with respect to their obligation to perform oversight of federal programs and expenditures, and that members are going to be expected to show up for their committee work to ensure these responsibilities are met,” a GOP leadership aide said. 

The aide added that GOP members of the most desirable committees would be limited to serving on one panel, while members who serve on less prestigious committees will be able to serve on two.

“The transition team and Steering Committee have been on the lookout for situations in which current committees are excessively large and overpopulated,” the aide said. “Such situations sometimes make it impossible for members to fully participate in all of their committee responsibilities because they sit on multiple committees with overlapping schedules and activities.”

Outgoing Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats were still trying to add seats to some panels. “We believe that we have a higher ratio than they did, so we may be entitled to some additional seats,” Hoyer told reporters. “But that is always a discussion between majority and minority.”

Republicans argue that their ratios accurately reflect Congress’ current makeup. Republicans will represent nearly 56 percent of the House next year to 44 percent for Democrats. Fifty-seven percent of the lawmakers on committees will be Republicans, while 43 percent will be Democrats.

Overall, the majority party holds 29 more committee seats than a straight Democratic-Republican ratio would dictate. But Republicans point out that their reapportionment is comparable to — and in some cases better than — when Democrats were in charge of the House. Democrats held 33 extra seats in the 110th Congress and 27 in the 111th.

Some of the deepest cuts in membership were on “A” committees.

The Energy and Commerce Committee eliminated six majority seats and one minority seat from 111th levels, leaving 30 GOP positions and 22 Democratic slots — meaning Pelosi must cut eight members from the panel.

The Appropriations Committee lost eight majority slots and two minority positions, forcing Pelosi to nix five incumbent Democrats from the panel.

The Financial Services Committee lost nine majority seats and three on the minority side. However, so many Democrats on the panel were defeated or retired that Pelosi only has to chop one from the ranks.

Republicans cut four majority positions on the Ways and Means Committee and none on the minority side. The panel’s ratio will be 22 Republicans to 15 Democrats, meaning Pelosi will have to cut six members from the panel.

Several lower-tier panels were also severely pared down. The large Transportation and Infrastructure Committee took the biggest hit. The 45 majority seats were reduced to 33, and the minority’s 30 seats were cut to 26, according to GOP leadership sources. The Education and Labor Committee lost 10 majority seats and four from the minority.

Although her membership may be unhappy with the current ratios, Pelosi may still have some time to appeal for more seats.

In 2009, negotiations between Boehner and Pelosi went well into January. In a Jan. 12 letter, Boehner vigorously objected to Pelosi’s committee ratios, saying they could amount to “one party rule.”

Pelosi responded by adding three more seats for the minority on key panels: two on Energy and Commerce and one on Financial Services.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.