Hill panels play musical chairs

Term limits alter lineup of House GOP committee chieftains

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Twelve years after his father gave up the gavel of the House transportation committee shortly before resigning from Congress, his son, Rep. Bill Shuster, will take command of the influential panel in January.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker was among 19 congressmen chosen Wednesday by their House Republican peers to serve as committee chairmen. The list includes 12 familiar faces who are returning to posts they currently hold, like Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (Budget), Harold Rogers of Kentucky (Appropriations), Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California (Armed Services) and Dave Camp of Michigan (Ways and Means).

Current Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John L. Mica of Florida is stepping down from the post because of House Republicans’ self-imposed term limits for chairmen.

Mr. Shuster, who has served on the panel since he first took office in 2001, says he has learned much from his father, Bud — an old school Pennsylvania Republican with a penchant for cooperating with Democrats and for securing pet projects for his district. But the younger Mr. Shuster added that running a committee in today’s highly charged partisan Congress requires an updated approach.

“This isn’t my father’s Congress anymore. Things are different,” he told a gathering of reporters minutes after his chairmanship was approved. “To move legislation, it takes certainly some of the skill set that he had — to be focused and to drive issues. But also you’ve got to make sure you’re listening to your membership, the committee and the greater (HouseGOP) conference.”

But Mr. Shuster says that like his father he won’t have a problem reaching across the partisan aisle in his committee, which historically has been among the most nonpartisan in the chamber.

“There are no Republican bridges and roads,” he said.

He added he has a long-standing working relationship with the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia.

Mr. Shuster said he would consider expanding tolls on the interstate highway system as a way to help pay for upgrades to the nation’s aging roads and bridges. But he quickly added any expansion of tolls would be done selectively, if at all.

The elder Mr. Shuster, who ran the House transportation committee from 1995 to January 2001, abruptly resigned from Congress in February of that year, citing health problems. The House Ethics Committee previously had investigated the lawmaker for improper links with a lobbyist who once worked for him. The panel in 2000 issued him a “letter of reproval” — a mild reprimand — and closed the three-year case.

Transportation for America spokesman David Goldberg said that while it’s unclear exactly what Mr. Shuster’s agenda will be, he “seems like a thoughtful person” who had a “genuine interest and expertise” with transportation issues.

“If he takes a cue from his father in his willingness to make bipartisan compromise for the sake of our infrastructure then it will be a good thing,” he said.

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said he was “very pleased” by Mr. Shuster’s elevation to committee chairman, praising him for doing a “great job” in recent years serving as chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials.

“He is a very good communicator and someone who will listen,” he said.

Other House committee chairmanships decided Wednesday are: Reps. Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma (Agriculture), John Kline of Minnesota (Education and the Workforce), Fred Upton of Michigan (Energy and Commerce), Jeb Hensarling of Texas (Financial Services), Edward R. Royce of California (Foreign Affairs), Michael T. McCaul of Texas (Homeland Security), Mike Rogers of Michigan (Intelligence), Bob Goodlatte of Virginia (Judiciary), Doc Hastings of Washington (Natural Resources), Darrell E. Issa of California (Oversight and Government Reform), Pete Sessions of Texas (Rules), Lamar Smith of Texas (Science, Space and Technology), Sam Graves of Missouri (Small Business) and Jeff Miller of Florida (Veterans’ Affairs).

Chairmanships for the House administration and ethics committees will be selected later this year.

House Republicans have been taking flak for a lack of racial and gender diversity — all their chairmen are white and male — in their leadership picks.

The only GOP minority or woman currently serving as a committee chairman, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is stepping down from the post because of chairmanship term limits.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who earlier this month was elected House conference chairman — considered the fourth-rung of the HouseGOP leadership ladder — is the highest ranking House Republican woman or minority.

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