After Promises, Peterson Poised for Ag Spot

Posted January 5, 2005 at 10:02am

Amid major controversy, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Wednesday morning advanced Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.) to its party’s top slot on the Agriculture Committee and named six new Members to openings on a pair of powerful exclusive committees.

The Steering Committee opted to promote Peterson to the ranking member position on the Agriculture panel, succeeding Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), who lost a tough re-election bid this fall. Peterson got the nod despite major concerns, including the fact that he has only twice paid his party dues, often bucks Democrats on key votes, including last year’s Medicare prescription drug measure, and rarely participates in party activities.

The full Democratic Caucus meets later this morning and is expected approve Peterson’s advancement, as well as the remaining ranking members and exclusive committee assignments.

Peterson has been lobbying heavily for the post since Stenholm’s ouster from the House on Nov. 2. He even paid his $70,000 in Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dues this cycle, the first time in at least a decade that he made good on his party obligation.

Earlier this week, several prominent Democrats including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Steering co-Chairman George Miller (Calif.) hit Peterson hard for his failure to help the party and questioned whether he deserved the Agriculture post. Peterson, according to sources, said he would do his part if given the job, and vowed to fulfill his DCCC commitments from now on.

In the meantime, the Steering Committee approved a slate of other Democratic ranking members without controversy. In addition to Peterson, the new ranking members this cycle include Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) who succeeds former Rep. Martin Frost (Texas) on the Rules Committee, and Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), who succeeds retired Rep. Jim Turner (Texas) on Homeland Security.

Rewarding top party givers this cycle, the Steering Committee members also named to the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Reps. Mike Ross (Ark.), Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.).

On the Ways and Means Committee, Steering tapped Reps. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), Mike Thompson (Calif.) and John Larson (Conn.). Larson currently serves as the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, and by moving onto the Ways and Means panel, he likely will have to forgo that ranking job.

They also named five freshmen to the Financial Services Committee, which in this Congress has become an exclusive panel for the Democrats. The Steering Committee named Reps. Melissa Bean (Ill.), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Al Green (Texas) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.).