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Republican Rep. Dan Lungren may have lost his bid to be California’s governor in 1998, but for two years he got to be the mayor of another complex, diverse community: Capitol Hill.
The House Administration chairman’s tenure will end at the conclusion of the 112th Congress: After nine nail-biting days, his too-close-to-call election was called Thursday evening by the Associated Press for his Democratic challenger, Ami Bera, who lost to Lungren in 2010 but was able to break through this cycle in a district and election that favored Democrats. Lungren has not conceded the race.
Being ousted from office is always a bitter pill, but Lungren’s loss is perhaps more so given his unenviable task of leading New Member Orientation for the next freshman class — Bera among them — when he himself won’t join them in January for the 113th Congress. But Lungren will leave behind an important legacy when he departs next month as the chairman of the panel that oversees the operations of Congress.
The House Administration Committee, while it has high impact on the Capitol campus, doesn’t have much resonance among constituents back home, except for the portion of the panel’s docket dealing with election law.
In fact, Lungren might have at one point been looking for a leadership role with a wider reach of influence. He attempted to win the Republican Conference chairmanship in 2006 but came up short, and in 2008, he waged an unsuccessful, albeit largely symbolic, attempt to oust Ohio Republican John A. Boehner from serving another term as House minority leader.
Since taking the helm of the House Administration panel after serving as its ranking member in the 111th Congress, however, Lungren has ultimately played a very important role in his party’s leadership. He carved out a niche for himself as a chairman who took his party’s platform and applied it to how the House itself is managed, ensuring that the chamber led by example in the broader Republican campaign to cut spending.
“Throughout his tenure with the House Administration Committee, Dan has been a leader in the Committee’s efforts to ensure the smooth, efficient and cost-effective operation of the House,” now-Speaker Boehner said in his 2010 appointment of Lungren to the chairmanship. “In his new role as Chairman, Dan will continue providing the leadership and oversight needed to rein in the cost of operating Congress and save taxpayer dollars, consistent with the GOP’s Pledge to America.”
Many of Lungren’s first orders of business fell in line with dictates from Boehner and company, such as the mandate to cut congressional committee budgets first by 5 percent and the following year by 6.4 percent. At the helm of the panel responsible for making the allocations, Lungren worked with tight numbers to try to make sure everybody had what they needed under serious restrictions.