Shift in Leadership, Policy Expected on House Panel
Washington--The unexpected death this month of the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, coupled with the decision by the panel's ranking Republican last September not to run for re-election, will result in a reshuffling of the committee's leadership posts--and possibly a significant shift in education policy--during the next session of the Congress.
The developments are being closely watched by education lobbyists because the committee and its counterpart Labor and Human Resources Commitee in the Senate forge most of the federal government's major pieces of legislation regarding schools. The leaders of these panels, who have the power to schedule bills they approve of and bottle up those they disapprove of, wield tremendous influence, those who follow education issues point out.
For example, the late chairman of the House education panel, Representative Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, was largely responsible for shepherding through the Congress most of the multibillion-dollar education legislation that was enacted during the Johnson Administration. (See related story on this page.)
The top Republican post on the committee for the next session of the Congress became vacant last September when Representative John N. Erlenborn of Illinois announced that he would retire following the end of the Congress's current session.
Lines of Succession
According to Congressional observers, the lines of succession on the Republican side of the committee appear relatively well drawn, subject to redesign only by election upsets in November or decisions by current committee members to seek better assignments on other committees.
But interviews with House staff members and education lobbyists indicate that the situation on the Democratic side is far less certain. All said they could only guess as to who will be the next chairmen of the panel's three education subcommittees.
The Congressional tradition of seniority dictates--and informed observers said it is all but decided--that the successors to Representatives Perkins and Erlenborn will be Representatives Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California, and James M. Jeffords, Republican of Vermont. Representative Hawkins already holds down the top post in an acting capacity, and aides said he "will actively seek" to keep the job on a full-time basis in the next Congress.
Good Working Relationship
Committee staff members said that Representative Hawkins, "an old-school liberal Democrat," and Representative Jeffords, a "moderate," have developed a good working relationship as chairman and ranking minority member of the Employment Opportunities Subcommittee. Among other things, the panel has oversight responsibility for the Job Training Partnership Act program.
"It's somewhat unusual that both will be moving up [from the same subcommittee] at the same time," a staff member said. "They already work well together and have a good knowledge of each other's styles."
However, the committee aides also pointed out that, given their roots on the "labor side" of the committee, Representatives Hawkins and Jeffords can be expected to approach education issues in a different fashion than did Representative Perkins, who had strong beliefs about the value of public schools.
"There will never be a replacement for Perkins, particularly when it comes to child nutrition and vocational education," said one staff member. "If Jeffords and Hawkins take an active interest in education issues, the biggest change I think you'll see is in their attitude toward vocational education. Both of them have acquired some of the skepticism of the labor side to vocational education, compared to Perkins' total committment."
"Perkins was a rural populist," suggested another staff member. "Hawkins, like many other big-city Democrats, doesn't seem to share his deep belief in public schools."
Staff members also say they expect Representative Hawkins to run committee business in a somewhat more egalitarian manner than did Representative Perkins, whom they described as an uncommonly strong chairman.
"Perkins was one of the last great rulers," said one committee aide. "Everyone knew he ran a tight ship."
"I think Hawkins will be a more subtle chairman," another aide said. "Perkins was a very forceful leader. He never seemed to take 'no' for an answer."
Although the next chairmanship of the full committee appears set, almost the exact opposite can be said for the committee's three education subcommittees. The reason for this situation can be traced, in part, to House rules governing the selection of committee and subcommittee chairmen.
The rules allow committee chairmen to also chair one subcommittee on their panel. Aides said that Representative Hawkins has not decided whether to keep his post on the Employment Opportunities Subcommittee or to seek the chairmanship of the Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee, which was chaired by Representative Perkins, or the chairmanship of the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee, which became open due to the decision of Representative Paul Simon of Illinois to run for the Senate.
Once Representative Hawkins makes his choice of a subcommittee known, other senior Democrats on the committee will then make bids for remaining subcommittee posts. In some cases, they will leave openings on other panels for less senior Democrats.
Postsecondary Slot Desirable
According to committee aides, the most desirable chairmanship in the upcoming session of the Congress will be that of the postsecondary-education panel. That subcommittee is expected to be a major battleground between the Congress and the Reagan Administration over the reauthorization of federal student-financial-aid programs, the only major education programs set to expire at the end of fiscal 1985.
Among those named as possible successors to Representative Simon as the subcommittee's chairman were Representatives William D. Ford of Michigan, Austin J. Murphy of Pennsylvania, Ike Andrews of North Carolina, and Dale E. Kildee of Michigan.
Named as possible successors to Representative Perkins on the elementary-education panel were Representatives Kildee, George Miller of California, Joseph M. Gaydos of Pennsylvania, and Pat Williams of Montana.
None of the aides speculated as to who might chair the select-education subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over special-education programs and the National Institute of Education.
Committee aides from both parties said they expect few or no changes among the leadership positions on the Republican side of the panel. If those projections hold true, the lineup of ranking minority members on the education-related subcommittees would continue to be: Representative William F. Goodling of Pennsylvania, Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education; E. Thomas Coleman of Missouri, Postsecondary Education; and Steve Bartlett of Texas, Select Education.
Education's Driving Force
Representative Perkins, who was the driving force behind much of the nation's federal education legislation, died of an apparent heart attack on Aug. 3 after becoming ill during a flight from Washington to Lexington, Ky.
He had complained of a cold earlier in the week.
The Representative, who was 71 years old and a 33-year Democratic veteran of the Congress, had chaired the Education and Labor Committee since 1967.
Known as an uncommonly powerful committee chairman and an adroit politician, he was often described by friends and foes alike as a sincere believer in the programs over which his panel had jurisdiction.
Representative Perkins' son, Carl C. Perkins, a representative in the Kentucky legislature, has announced that he will run for the Congressional seat left vacant by his father's death.