Federal File

September 21, 2004 1 min read

Domino Effect

The Senate education committee could be in for a leadership shake-up.

Several education lobbyists said they’ve heard that Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the chairman, is ready to leave that position in favor of the Budget Committee, where the top Republican slot will be open next year.

“That’s the rumor du jour,” said one education lobbyist, who asked not to be named. “I think there’s a feeling out there that in his heart, his interests are in deficit reduction and budget issues, rather than the touchy-feely kinds of issues that are dealt with” by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The speculation is that Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming would take over for Mr. Gregg as the top Republican. The only other person with more seniority is Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is the Senate majority leader and could not hold both posts.

It all started when Sen. Don Nickles, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the Budget Committee, announced that he would retire from the Senate, setting off guesswork about how the dominoes would fall. Mr. Gregg is next in line on that committee, but a senator cannot lead two panels.

“Because of seniority, it’s his prerogative to make that decision, and he’s weighing that,” said Gayle Osterberg, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the education committee, when asked whether Sen. Gregg was planning to make a switch. “I should just leave it at that.”

As for what Sen. Enzi’s intentions might be should his colleague from New Hampshire relinquish the Republican helm, his spokesman demurred.

“He’ll consider a chairmanship opportunity at the appropriate time should one present itself,” said Coy Knobel, Mr. Enzi’s press secretary.

The next person in line behind Mr. Enzi is Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who served as secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush.

At the same time, a change in the GOP leadership would matter less under a scenario Democrats are hoping for: a change in party control of the Senate.

If Democrats win enough seats in the closely divided chamber in the Nov. 2 elections, the coveted “Mr. Chairman” title will presumably revert to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

—Erik W. Robelen

A version of this article appeared in the July 28, 2004 edition of Education Week