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Davis Lands Government Reform Gavel in Late-Night Conference Meeting

Cox, Pombo, Goodlatte Also Win Vacant Chairmanships

After months of intense jockeying by a handful of ambitious Republicans, the House GOP Steering Committee tapped three lawmakers to chair panels vacated by Members who either retired or were term-limited out of their titles.

Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) won the Government Reform Committee gavel after a hard-fought contest while Rep. Richard Pombo (Calif.) also beat back a crowded field to secure the Resources chairmanship. As expected, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) was selected to take the helm of the Agriculture Committee.

Meanwhile, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) named GOP Policy Committee Chairman Chris Cox (Calif.) as chairman of the new Select Committee on Homeland Security.

After the late-night Conference meeting to ratify the new chairmen, Davis said he felt “relieved” that he was selected.

“I had been very active on this committee…and I feel the Conference felt that they owed me something,” he said, referring to the two successful terms he served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Immediately, Davis announced that he had asked Rep. Chris Shays (Conn.), a chief contender in the race, to be his vice chairman and that Shays had accepted the job.

Cox had waged an aggressive campaign against Davis for the Government Reform helm and, according to several knowledgeable lawmakers, proved he had the leadership qualities to run the committee that would oversee the creation of the massive Homeland Security Department.

Cox, however, decided to hold onto his GOP Policy Committee chairmanship as well, blunting an effort by Rep. Rob Portman (Ohio) to nab an elected leadership job. Portman currently serves as the Republican Leadership chairman, a position appointed by the Speaker, and had expressed strong interest in the policy spot if Cox decided to give it up.

But Cox insisted that keeping the Policy Committee gavel would help him head up the new select committee.

“This job is an extension of what the Policy Committee really does,” he said, noting that Hastert had wanted a member of the leadership team to chair the select committee.

The select committee will be made up of chairmen from the all the panels claiming some jurisdiction over the new Cabinet department as well as a few other Members who have yet to be determined, Cox said.

According to knowledgeable GOP aides, Hastert had backed Davis in the Steering Committee meetings and the Speaker’s support made the difference in the final analysis.

Still, Republican lawmakers acknowledged that it was a very difficult choice because all the candidates for Government Reform were so strong.

Earlier in the day, Shays, the most senior of the Government Reform contenders, joked with reporters that he had fallen off the short list in recent weeks. Shays, who early last year helped champion the campaign finance reform bill, said he understood that he was being punished for his actions but believed that the process had been fair and that he had been given a chance to make his case.

“I realize there are consequences for everything you do and a lot of this is about reward and punishment,” he said. “In the end it is about accountability.”

Shays also said he was delighted to have the opportunity to serve as vice chairman of Government Reform, which will position him very well to win the gavel if Davis should ever leave the House to run for higher office.

Seniority failed to sway the Steering Committee when it came time to choose a Resources chairmen as well. Pombo ran a bold campaign and leapfrogged over six more senior Republicans also vying for the position.

“I realize it’s my responsibility to work with the other committee members I jumped over for this position,” he said, after hearing that he had won the spot.

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