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Renamed House Education Panel To Restructure and Cut Staff

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Washington

Republican and Democratic lawmakers continued their transition to the historic 104th Congress last week by electing committee leaders and discussing numerous administrative changes.

Committee structures and assignments, as well as most subcommittee chairmanships, remained undecided late last week.

As expected, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., was officially tapped by G.O.P. leaders to head the House Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunity, the new name Republicans gave the Education and Labor Committee.

Mr. Goodling, a former educator who has been on the committee since 1974, will see the balance of power tilt to 19 Republican and 16 Democratic committee members from the current 24 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Rep. Robert L. Livingston, R-La., will oversee discretionary spending as the House Appropriations Committee chairman. He was picked for the post over other members with more seniority.

His panel, which had 37 Democrats and 23 Republicans, will shift to 31 Republicans and 21 Democrats.

Mr. Livingston almost immediately named chairmen for the 13 appropriations subcommittees. Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., will head the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee.

On the Senate side, few surprises are expected when Republican leaders officially name committee chairmen later this month.

Transition-committee aides say Senate chairmanships will go to the G.O.P. members with the most seniority, as has been traditional.

Barring major surprises, that means Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., will chair the Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees education, and Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, R-Ore., will chair the Appropriations Committee.

Traditional seniority rules could be bypassed, however, in picking subcommittee chairmen, said one transition-team aide.

Other changes under discussion by the new Senate leadership are a 15 percent cut in committee staffs and a 25 percent reduction in the General Accounting Office, the Congressional watchdog agency. A group studying Senate committee reorganization has yet to present its recommendations.

Name Change

While Mr. Goodling is still musing over how to restructure his House committee, he has already put his fingerprints on it.

He suggested to party leaders last week that the word "educational" be added to the panel's name, which was to be "Committee on Economic Opportunity."

An aide to Mr. Goodling said the change more accurately reflects the committee's total jurisdiction.

Mr. Goodling now must reduce the panel's subcommittees from six to five as part of an overall reduction of House subcommittees from 145 to 120. It is unclear which subcommittee will go, and Mr. Goodling has said he wants to reshuffle their bailiwicks.

In a written statement, Mr. Goodling said that if he is to succeed as chairman and achieve his goal of granting more power and flexibility to state and local officials, "old habits will have to be dramatically changed."

"That is why I suggest a comprehensive, systematic review of all programs and laws," he added.

House Democrats are scheduled to meet this week to choose ranking minority members for each committee. It is expected that Rep. William L. Clay, D-Mo., will remain on the education panel and take over as the leader of its Democratic minority.

New Rules

Other committee members, especially Republicans, are weighing their options under proposed House rule changes, which were announced last week but will not be formally ratified until Congress convenes on Jan. 4 with G.O.P. majorities in both houses for the first time in 40 years.

One new rule will limit the terms of chairmen to six years and allow members to hold just one chairmanship at a time.

"It spreads out the responsibility for governing our country and brings new blood into the leadership structure," said John Czwartacki, the press secretary for Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who sponsored the rule.

That restriction means relatively low-ranking Republicans could end up with subcommittee chairmanships on the new education committee because more senior members may take top spots elsewhere.

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., for example, is now the ranking Republican on three House subcommittees, including the Postsecondary Education and Training Subcommittee. In an interview last week, he said he wants to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's surface-transportation subcommittee.

Under other new House rules:

  • No member may serve on more than two standing committees and four subcommittees.
  • Proxy voting in committees--in which a lawmaker allows the chairman or ranking minority member to cast his vote in his absence--will be banned, reducing the power of chairmen to push through legislation.
  • All committee hearings and markups will be open to the public except when national security, ethics complaints, or other sensitive topics are addressed.
  • Retroactive tax increases would be prohibited.

In other transition developments, the Senate leadership races produced a pair of razor-thin victory margins.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., edged out Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., for the position of assistant Senate majority leader on a 27-to-26 vote. Mr. Simpson, who had held the number-two G.O.P. leadership post for a decade, was backed by the incoming majority leader, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota nipped Christopher J. Dodd, 24 to 23, in his party's race for minority leader. George J. Mitchell of Maine, who had served as the Senate majority leader since 1989, is retiring.

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