No Clear-Cut Successors for Defeated ‘Old Bulls’

Posted November 4, 2010 at 4:04pm

The defeat of three powerful House Democratic chairmen Tuesday night has set up races for ranking member slots in the 112th Congress that could have wide-ranging ripple effects.

Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.), Budget Chairman John Spratt (S.C.), and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (Minn.) lost their re-election bids this week as the party lost its claim to the majority in the House.

The fallout for the Armed Services Committee is particularly messy. The highest-ranking member after Skelton is Spratt. Next in line is Rep. Solomon Ortiz (Texas), who is awaiting final results from his re-election bid but appears to be narrowly losing, followed by Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.), who lost his race.

Two returning Members who could be interested in the job are Silvestre Reyes (Texas), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Adam Smith (Wash.). Both will be entering their eighth terms.

If Reyes takes the post, it would open up the Intelligence chairmanship. Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.) is the next highest-ranking Member, but he has already been passed over once for the top job on the panel.

Leadership positions on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have historically been plum assignments, and Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, is next in line in seniority. Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), a progressive firebrand, and Rep. Jerry Costello (Ill.) could run for the post as well.

Costello also is in line to become ranking member on Science and Technology, in place of retiring Chairman Bart Gordon (Tenn.), if he doesn’t run for the transportation slot. And if Rahall gives up Natural Resources, more dominoes would fall.

Then there’s the Budget ranking member slot — often a thankless job, especially in the minority. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) is the vice chairwoman of the committee, but she hasn’t commented on whether she will seek the post.

There are no other obvious candidates on the panel or Members who have expressed interest in the post — yet.

Other ranking member slots also are yet to be determined, including on the Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.) faces a challenge from Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.).

Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), meanwhile, is favored to ascend to the top Democratic slot on Appropriations, succeeding retiring Chairman David Obey (Wis.), but he faces at least a nominal race from backbencher Chaka Fattah (Pa.).

Several Democratic aides said they expect the picture to clear up a bit once Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announces whether she will run for Minority Leader or step down following the Democrats’ historic drubbing.