Speaker Adds Five to Key Committee

Posted February 7, 2007 at 6:47pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday named her picks for the five open spots on the House Administration Committee, and officials are very close to announcing the formation of one or more Administration subcommittees for the first time in years.

Democratic Reps. Robert Brady (Pa.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Charlie Gonzalez (Texas) and Susan Davis (Calif.) are set to join Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (Calif.) on the committee.

“This talented group of Members brings the experience and knowledge that is necessary to ensure the vital functions of the House continue to run efficiently and effectively,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Republican Reps. Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.) already have been named to fill the committee’s three Republican spots.

Meanwhile, House officials are expected to decide soon whether to create subcommittees for the nine-member body, Millender-McDonald spokeswoman Janice Crump said.

While “none of this stuff is real yet,” ideas being discussed include the creation of a subcommittee to oversee campaign finance, Crump said.

“Everything is just swirling around like a little tornado,” Crump added.

The creation of subcommittees would be a major change for House Administration.

Originally created by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the committee merged an eclectic group of different committees, including accounts, elections and memorials. Today, House Administration oversees elections and the day-to-day functions of the House.

In the committee’s early years, various subcommittees existed, but in recent decades, the nine-Member committee has functioned without any subcommittees.

One reason for the change could be the panel’s current workload: of the 37 bills now before the committee, roughly half involve tweaking election or campaign finance laws. The proposals range from highly charged overhauls in the regulation of 527s, to broad bipartisan demands that electronic voting machines provide a paper record of votes cast.

And with the panel’s legislative plate already heaping with controversial proposals — and with 2008 presidential primaries less than one year away — some Republicans are asking why the appointments are so long in coming.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on the problems associated with electronic voting machines — which resurfaced in Florida last November in a House race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. Buchanan was declared the winner by 369 votes, but Jennings said the electronic ballot was flawed and is challenging the results before the House Administration Committee and in the courts.

“The Senate has already started investigating and looking into the whole electronic voting machine issue. It makes more sense that if you have these burning issues … to get the assignments done sooner rather than later,” a House GOP aide observed.

“I really don’t know what the hold-up [was],” the aide added. “Maybe this isn’t a top priority for leadership? … But I don’t even buy into that: This whole Buchanan-Jennings thing and all of the election reforms are obviously on the front burner for [Democrats]?”

Democrats downplayed suggestions that they did anything more than practice due diligence in taking time to appoint Members to the panel. Calling the issues now before the panel “very complicated,” a Democratic aide said the committee this Congress could wander deep in to the morass of campaign finance and lobbying law than ever before.

“You want a senior, well-qualified group of Members on that committee,” the aide said.

The new subcommittees also could function to advance one or more of Millender-McDonald’s priorities for the committee, Crump said. Those include improving electronic voting machines, overseeing the Capitol Police, resolving issues with Congressional Franking and bringing greater diversity to the Capitol.

But everything remains speculative, Crump said.

“It’s been a little long in coming,” Crump conceded. “With the Democrats just coming into power after more than a decade, people are deciding where they want to be.”

Although some oversights are expected after a transition, a GOP aide said that the Democratic takeover — combined with Millender-McDonald’s new initiatives — may be too much, too fast for the nine-Member committee. With the chairwoman’s ambitious agenda, more mundane responsibilities could get lost in the shuffle, this person warned.

“It begs the question,” the aide said. “You’ve got such an aggressive agenda, but what about the things that need to happen anyway?”

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.