Democratic Steering to Meet Soon on Vacancy

Posted April 21, 2008 at 6:49pm

The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee could meet as early as this week to fill a vacancy on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

At least a half-dozen Democrats are vying for the exclusive seat, which became available in early April after Rep. Albert Wynn (Md.) announced he would step down from the panel. Wynn, who lost a Democratic primary to challenger Donna Edwards, is scheduled to resign his House seat May 31 to join a law and lobbying firm.

Among the contenders to replace Wynn are freshman Reps. Zack Space (Ohio), Betty Sutton (Ohio), Bruce Braley (Iowa) and John Sarbanes (Md.), who is widely seen as having the support of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a fellow Marylander.

Del. Donna Christian-Christensen, who has been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, is also in contention for the seat, as are Reps. James Langevin (R.I.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.).

Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (Mich.), who also serves on the Steering panel, has not publicly commented on the vacancy or a potential replacement for Wynn.

The Steering and Policy Committee had not yet scheduled a meeting date as of Monday, according to the office of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.). She co-chairs the panel along with Rep. George Miller (Calif.).

Once the panel has issued its recommendation for the seat, that decision must be approved by the full Democratic Caucus. The panel’s broad jurisdiction makes it a plum assignment for legislating as well as a good perch for fundraising.

Even after Wynn’s former seat has been filled, the competition to join the panel is expected to continue. At least two more Democratic seats on the exclusive committee will become available in the 111th Congress with Rep. Darlene Hooley (Ore.) retiring and Rep. Tom Allen (Maine) seeking to unseat GOP Sen. Susan Collins.

In addition, the Energy Committee is expected to tap Rep. Gene Green (Texas) to chair the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, a position Wynn had held until his resignation from the panel.