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Gordon’s Last Act Was Handing Committee Gavel to GOP

House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon prides himself on running a bipartisan committee. But the Tennessee Democrat, who is retiring this year, caught several people off guard a few weeks ago when he closed out his final hearing by turning the gavel over to the panel’s ranking member.

Committee members applauded the 13-term lawmaker for his years of service at the end of a Sept. 29 hearing, a video of which is posted on the committee’s website. And in his final action as chairman, Gordon invited ranking member Ralph Hall (R-Texas) to take his seat.

“Now I’d like to turn the gavel over to Mr. Hall,” Gordon said as he rose from his chair. Hall took over.

The move was “awkward, to say the least,” according to one Democratic source who witnessed the exchange. Committee member Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) called out Gordon for the larger message he sent with his action: that he thinks Republicans will win the House in the November elections and control the committees next year.

“That’s a bit premature, Mr. Chairman,” Baird said from the panel.

During his few minutes in the chairman’s seat, Hall told the committee, “I hope I’m the chairman almost a year from now.” He praised Gordon’s bipartisanship and then gaveled out.

“We’re adjourned,” Hall said.

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