House Republican Victory Would Shift Power to Southern California

Congressman David Dreier

Under Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives, California members (especially from Northern California) hold significant power in the House.  The most powerful House member, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is from San Francisco.  George Miller, Chairman of the powerful Education and Labor Committee, is from Northern California.  Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman is from the Los Angeles area. Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren is from San Jose.  Los Angeles Representative Howard Berman is Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  The California delegation today is arguably the most powerful of any state.

And if Republicans take the House in 2010, California members will continue to hold considerable power, although the source of the Committee Chairs will shift from the Northern California to Southern California.  While the Speaker and the Majority Leader will likely be from Ohio and Virginia respectively, California Republicans are expected to control some of the most powerful committees and positions in leadership.*  A brief look at these members:

  • David Dreier (CA-26)-Rules Committee. The Rules Committee in the House is arguably the most powerful Committee because it controls how the House will consider every single bill.  The Party in control of the House uses the Rules Committee to limit debate and block amendments that might be politically difficult for vulnerable majority-party members.  Ranking Member Dreier has served as Chairman of the Rules Committee before and already knows how to run the Committee.
  • Jerry Lewis (CA-41)-Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee in the House writes the government’s annual appropriations  bills.  With Republicans campaigning on reducing spending, this Committee will become even more important as it controls a central aspect of the Republican agenda.
  • Darrell Issa (CA-49)-Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In the past, Oversight Chairmen have aggressively investigated the Administration when one party controls the House but not the White House (for example, Henry Waxman under Bush and Dan Burton under Clinton).  Ranking Member Issa has already brought significant attention to his concerns about the Obama Administration and as Chair he will gain both the ability to schedule hearings and the subpoena power to compel Administration figures and other witnesses to testify.
  • Buck McKeon (CA-25)-Armed Forces Committee. The Obama Administration significantly reduced the number of American troops in Iraq and has pledged to withdraw most remaining troops in 2011, but the war in Afghanistan will continue past November.  As Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, McKeon would be able to attempt to shape how the Administration handles the war (mainly through Appropriations).
  • Kevin McCarthy (CA-22)-Republican Leadership. Kevin McCarthy is currently the Chief Deputy Whip for House Republicans and a leader of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) “Young Guns” program recruiting Republicans to run for the House.  He has quickly become an influential voice in Republican leadership and his efforts to help and fund raise for Republican candidates likely has gained him loyalty from new members.  McCarthy is widely expected to have a powerful position in the House Republican Leadership in 2010 and beyond.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy

If Republicans retake the House in November, California’s delegation will remain powerful because of the members who will become Chairs (or move up in leadership).  A Republican take over would likely keep California’s position as the most powerful delegation in the country, since the rest of Republican leadership will be scattered across several states.  California’s power in the House will, however, shift its base, as all of the powerful members will come from Southern California instead of Northern California.

*This post assumes that Ranking Members become Chairs, which obviously does not always happen because of term limits for leadership posts (and sometimes waivers of these term limits) as well as internal politics of leadership positions.

Pictures courtesy of House Republican Conference

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