Education-Panel Membership Shifts in Biennial Shuffle

By Mark Pitsch — December 16, 1992 4 min read

WASHINGTON--The House Education and Labor Committee last week picked up 12 new members, including 11 freshmen, while losing seven veterans to other committees.

The new assignments came as Democrats and Republicans met to organize leadership and committee structures for the 103rd Congress.

The new members of Education and Labor are one of the largest new classes ever to arrive on the panel.

“We’ve kind of lost a good bunch of middle-level members of the committee,’' said Edward R. Kealy, the director of federal relations for the National School Boards Association. “But the positive side is that we’ve got a few of those key people on Appropriations.’'

The new members of the authorizing committee, he said, “will bring some new energy and new ideas to reauthorization’’ of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Despite all the membership turnover, the partisan ratio on the committee will not change, with Democrats holding a 24-to-15 majority.

Also last week, the House Democratic Caucus moved to streamline House operations by eliminating 16 of 135 subcommittees, including two Education and Labor panels.

The Health and Safety Subcommittee was merged with Labor Standards, while the duties of Employment Opportunities were divided among other areas. No education-related subcommittees were affected.

Appropriations Changes

In another development significant to education interests, William H. Natcher, D-Ky., was elected by the Democratic Caucus to the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Mr. Natcher’s formal elevation ended a protracted power struggle between the committee’s former chairman, Jamie L. Whitten, D-Miss., and the Democratic leadership, which urged the ailing 82-year-old lawmaker to step down.

Mr. Natcher, 83, is assuming the chairmanship of a committee for the first time in his 40-year House career.

Mr. Natcher, who also chairs the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee and has managed spending bills covering those areas since 1979, is considered an advocate for education funding. But the tight federal budget and the competing demands of his new position are expected to reduce his impact in that area.

John Porter, R-Ill., is in line to succeed Carl D. Pursell, R-Mich., as the ranking Republican on the education subcommittee. But Mr. Porter is also the natural successor on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Operations Subcommittee, and those positions had not been assigned last week.

The education subcommittee picked up four Democrats: Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Nancy Pelosi of California, and Jose E. Serrano and Nita Lowey of New York.

Republican subcommittee assignments have not been announced, although eight new members have joined the Appropriations panel.

An aide to Mr. Natcher said the addition of Representatives DeLauro, Pelosi, and Lowey, the first female members to join the subcommittee since 1974, is “a huge change and long overdue.’'

“This would appear to be a relatively liberal group of people who are open to our type of agenda,’' the aide added.

New Democratic Members

To join the Appropriations Committee, Ms. Lowey and Mr. Serrano had to forfeit their seats on the Education and Labor Committee.

In addition, four Democrats--John W. Olver of Massachusetts, Ed Pastor of Arizona, William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, and Craig Washington of Texas--joined other, more prominent committees and gave up seats on Education and Labor, as did Scott L. Klug, R-Wis.

Those departures, the retirements of two former members, and the electoral defeats of another three left openings for several freshmen on Education and Labor. The new Democratic members are:

  • Xavier Becerra of California, who was elected to the State Assembly in 1991. Mr. Becerra, 34, has called for increasing the federal role in education and focusing resources on early-childhood development.

  • Lynn Woolsey of California, who sought a position on the committee to push for national health insurance. Ms. Woolsey, 55, owns a temporary-employment agency and has served on the Petaluma City Council since 1984.

  • Karan English, 53, of Arizona, who was elected to the State Senate in 1991, where she served on the Education Committee. Her district is 60 percent rural, and she has said she wants to protect the interests of small, rural schools.

  • Ted Strickland of Ohio, a 51-year-old psychology professor at Shawnee State College. Mr. Strickland is an advocate of public school choice.

  • Ron Klink of Pennsylvania, a 41-year-old television reporter who ousted a five-term Democratic incumbent, Joe Kolter, in the primary.

  • Gene Green of Texas, who has served in the State Senate since 1985. The 45-year-old Houston native, who is white, won in a newly created district designed to elect a black or Hispanic.

  • Robert C. Scott of Virginia, a 10-year veteran of the State Senate. Mr. Scott, a 45-year-old African-American, represents a district that is nearly two-thirds black.

  • Carlos Barcelo-Romero, the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico.

Also joining the committee was Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., a second-term member from the Bronx.
Three G.O.P. Freshmen

The new Republican members of the panel are:

  • Dan Miller, a 50-year-old Floridian who has called for control of the federal budget through program cuts and a balanced-budget amendment.

  • Peter Hoekstra, 49, of Michigan, who also made the control of federal spending a campaign priority.

  • Howard P. “Buck’’ McKeon, 53, of California, who has spent the last five years as a member of the Santa Clarita City Council. Although he suggested during his campaign that defense dollars could support domestic programs, he is also concerned about creating job opportunities for the many displaced defense-industry workers in his district.

A version of this article appeared in the December 16, 1992 edition of Education Week as Education-Panel Membership Shifts in Biennial Shuffle