With the Republican Party currently maintaining functional control over 224 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Democratic net gain of only seven seats in the November election would be enough to tip the balance of majority control in the Democrats’ favor. This would place all of the House’s powerful committee and subcommittee chairmanships in the hands of the Democratic Party. What this will do to the American economy is only too easy to imagine. So, on Halloween, let us peer gingerly into the future that could be.
Committee chairmen wield enormous power in the House. The Democratic Party relies almost exclusively on seniority in determining its committee chairmen, guaranteeing that many of the prospective chairmen will come from congressional districts that are generally the most reliably Democratic and, therefore, the most liberal. Gone are the days when conservative Southern Democrats wielded disproportionate legislative power. Most of those districts have gone Republican. As for so-called New Democrats, they will not be the chairmen of many of the most important committees.
From the House Appropriations Committee, where Wisconsin Rep. David Obey would become chairman, to the tax-writing and entitlement-overseeing Ways and Means Committee, where New York City Rep. Charles Rangel would assume power, the left wing faction of the Democratic Party would be in control. Mr. Obey, who took his seat on appropriations during President Nixon’s first year in office, is described by the Almanac of American Politics as “a true believer in traditional liberalism, in Keynesian economics and in economic redistribution” who fervidly supports a single-payer system to provide universal health care. The National Journal routinely ranks Mr. Rangel among the House’s most liberal members on economics-related votes. The AFL-CIO consistently gives him a 100 percent rating.
Julian Dixon, a California Democrat who earned 100 percent ratings each of the last two years from the extremely liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) would become chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut would take over the chairmanship of the International Relations Committee. Joe Moakley of Massachusetts, one of Big Labor’s most reliable votes, would chair the powerful House Rules Committee. Henry Waxman of California, who was elected to Congress in 1974 in the wake of Watergate and who has done his best to sabotage the Government Reform Committee’s investigation of the Clinton-Gore administration’s campaign-finance abuses and other scandals, would take over that panel. In the National Journal’s 1999 rankings, Mr. Waxman tied with eight other Democrats as the House’s most liberal member.
George Miller from California, who has been the AFL-CIO’s most reliable congressman during the Clinton administration, is in line to chair the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Nydia Velazquez, who is in line to become chairman of the Small Business Committee, has consistently received 100 percent ratings from the AFL-CIO and 95-100 percent ratings from the ADA since she was first elected in 1992. John Conyers of Michigan, an ADA “100 percenter” in 1999 who turned the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment 1998 hearings into a partisan charade, would head that panel. Lane Evans of Illinois, who spent most of the 1990s accumulating 100 percent ratings from both the AFL-CIO and the ADA, would become chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Add to all of that the prospect of a Democratic majority led by Dick Gephardt, who would become House speaker, and you have a scenario worthy of a Halloween scare. This isn’t trick or treat, however, but a real potential nightmare for American businesses and taxpayers.