Hutchison to Keep Ranking Commerce Spot

Posted October 31, 2008 at 3:28pm

Despite persistent rumors on K Street that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will relinquish her ranking member slot on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee next year, the Texas Republican is already crafting a roadmap for the committee in the 111th Congress, according to her staff.

“There’s no truth to this rumor,” Republican committee spokesman Joe Brenkle said. “Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is very engaged and is already starting to plan the committee agenda for the next Congress.”

Brenkle’s comments marked a significant push back against recent rumors that Hutchison was planning to step aside. Rumors also have circulated that Hutchison plans to resign her Senate seat sometime early next year in order to pursue a gubernatorial bid in 2010.

Hutchison has been acting as the ranking member on the Commerce panel since Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was indicted on charges that he lied on financial disclosure forms. Stevens was convicted on seven felony counts last week. He plans to appeal, but already many of his Senate colleagues have called on him to step down. Plus, he may not even return to Congress next year if he loses a tight re-election race Tuesday.

The Hutchison rumor mill among lobbyists appears to be fueled in part by comments that Hutchison allegedly made to donors five weeks ago about wanting Stevens to survive politically so she would not have to take over the ranking spot permanently. Some sources dismissed those remarks as an offhand joke. When she stepped in for Stevens at the end of July, she made it clear that she saw it as a temporary situation until he was cleared of all charges.

If Hutchison left the Senate to run for Texas governor, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is next in line to replace her on the Commerce panel.