Sunday, March 30, 2008

Most Powerful MN Republican in Congress ? Coleman – No; Kline – No; Bachmann – Maybe

Query : Who will be the most powerful Republican representing Minnesota when the next Congress convenes in January 2009 ?

To answer the question, it’s best to define what is meant by “powerful”. For the purpose of this question, “powerful” is defined by influencing legislation or attracting media attention.

Also, the answer assumes that the three currently serving Republicans will be re-elected; that Jim Ramstad will not seek re-election; and that any new Republicans elected will not be assigned as high ranking members of significant committees.

First, let’s look at the current rankings by Congress.Org : Senator Norm Coleman (#82 out of 100);
Jim Ramstad (#203 out of 435);
Michele Bachmann (#363)
and finally John Kline (#396).

One would think that the Senate would present the most opportunity for power but with the entrenched party seniority system, that has not helped Coleman. Currently, the Senate is technically evenly divided with 49 seats for the Democrats and Republicnas, but the Republicans must defend 23. In addition, five Republicans and no Democrats have announced that they are retiring. Coleman should move up four spots on the ranking based on those retirements ( Larry Craig is rated below Coleman having been disclipined for his “behavior issues”.) Coleman currently has two high profile committees. Coleman is assigned to the Committee on Foreign Relations where he is behind Dick Lugar (IN) while George Voinovich (OH) was elected in 1998 (versus Coleman in 2002). As many Minnesotans know, Coleman is on the Committee on Agriculture whose ranking Republican is Saxby Chambliss (GA) with five other Republicans ranked higher than Coleman’s seniority. Also, as most of us rural areas of Minnesota know, Coleman has been unsuccessful in getting his Republican counterparts to get the 2007 Farm Bill enacted. The latest is another temporary extension until April 18, 2008 of the Paul Wellstone negotiated bill.

Due the Senate’s filibuster rules, unless VOTE 60 is achieved, legislation will remain firmly entrenched in limbo mode.

The House is another story.
Here the number of members that started the session that will not be returning seems to be growing everyday. 22 Republicans have announced their retirements at the end of the session. Another 12 Republicans will not be returning next year for a variety of reasons (seeking a different office, etc.) In contrast, maybe seven House Democrats are not seeking re-election.
The Democrats currently hold a 233 to 198 advantage over the Republicans.

The smart money is that the Democrats will hold the advantage in January 2009.

The interesting question is, who will the Republicans assign to the major committees?

In my opinion, the two most powerful committees are the Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees.

The House Ways and Means Committee is charged with writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs. Of the 24 Republican members on the Ways and Means Committee in 2006, only nine will return in 2009 — and that’s assuming every GOP panelist wins reelection this November. Jim Ramstad is Minnesota’s voice on the Committee.

The House Appropriations Committee is responsible for writing each of the 13 annual federal spending bills. Six of 29 Republicans are retiring and the ranking Republican, Jerry Lewis, is connected to a federal investigation. No Minnesota Republicans currently serve on the Committee.

John Kline is currently assigned to three committees, most significantly, the House Committee on Education and Labor where he is eleventh in the pecking order.

Michele Bachmann is currently assigned to only the House Committee on Financial Services.

Considering the number of openings on the Ways and Means Committee it would not be surprising for Congresswoman Bachmann to seek a seat. Considering her work on Minnesota’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights and being former federal tax attorney, she would be a logical candidate.
Logical, yet potentially disappointing if you desire any health care reform. While Jim Ramstad was a leading advocate for insurance reform, Bachmann has voted against SCHIP and Mental Health Parity.
Bachmann has become a media darling – making media appearances on Bill Bennett's Morning in America, the Laura Ingraham Show, the O’Reilly Factor, etc. She has also penned commentary on Townhall and initiated legislation such as the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act that appeal to a certain group of supporters that are likely to make contributions for her campaign committee. It’s a smart strategy that may return her for another term. Yet, the concern is not only for what may not happen with health care reform, but her ideas on tax policy.

The thought of “Powerful Congresswoman Michele Bachmann” just put shivers down my spine.

Voters in the Sixth and Second District have a choice, do you want Bachmann or Kline assigned to these committees to continue their efforts to neglect Health Care Reform and continue Tax Policies that grow the federal deficit ? This election is not only about who will represent your district but who will be assigned to these important committees.

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