Blunt Gets Three Steering Votes

Posted October 26, 2005 at 6:30pm

As an unintended result of his dual roles in the party leadership, it appears that House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) now holds more sway on the Republican Steering Committee than did his predecessor, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

According to a House GOP aide, Blunt is recognized as the acting Majority Leader by the Steering Committee, while continuing to hold his post as Majority Whip. Those dual roles provide Blunt three votes on the panel — two for holding the post of Majority Leader and one for continuing to serve as Majority Whip.

While those combined votes don’t outweigh the five allotted to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), they do give Blunt a degree of influence over the remaining members, each of whom receives one vote. The Steering Committee’s primary responsibility is to fill committee spots, which are subject to approval by the Conference.

As it’s structured today, votes on the committee come from nine leadership positions — Speaker, Majority Leader, Majority Whip, Chief Deputy Majority Whip, Republican Conference chairman, Policy chairman, Conference vice chairman, Conference secretary and National Republican Congressional Committee chairman — as well as from four committee chairmen, 13 regional or state representatives and one representative each for the freshman and sophomore classes.

Blunt’s rise began several weeks ago when Conference rules forced the newly indicted DeLay to step aside as Majority Leader.

It is not clear whether Blunt’s dual role had any impact on the Steering Committee’s most recent meeting Wednesday. During that session, the group selected Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) to fill the vacancy on the Energy and Commerce Committee created after Blunt relinquished his seat.

A spokeswoman for Blunt said Wednesday the Missouri lawmaker’s decision was prompted by his recent accession to Majority Leader, but added that his absence from the panel is “temporary,” pending his tenure in the top post.

The House Republican Steering Committee tapped Barrett to fill the post for the foreseeable future at a Wednesday afternoon meeting.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Gresham to the Energy and Commerce Committee,’ Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) said in a statement.

“Our committee has responsibility for everything from health care and professional sports to energy and the environment to the Internet,” added Barton, who serves on the Steering Committee. “We’ve got a ton of work to do, and our newest member will find himself with a real opportunity to make a difference on behalf of the people of South Carolina, starting today. Welcome aboard.”

The South Carolina lawmaker, now in his second term, was similarly effusive in his acceptance of the post. “As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I look forward to promoting alternative sources of energy with the ultimate goal of reducing our dependency on foreign sources of energy,” Barrett said in a statement.

Although Conference rules normally prohibit Members from serving on more than one panel when serving on an “A” committee, Barrett, a second-term lawmaker, will be allowed to maintain his seats on the Financial Services, International Relations and Budget committees because his appointment is temporary.

If DeLay is cleared of conspiracy and money-laundering charges relatively quickly, Blunt may never get to use his three votes again: The panel typically meets only to fill committee vacancies, which are rare in the middle of a Congress.