Democrats Pare Down Membership on Three Key Panels

Posted January 7, 2011 at 2:40pm

The House Democratic Caucus approved dramatically pared back committee rosters Friday afternoon for the Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees.

After four years of being flush with committee posts in the majority, Democrats were forced to cut five returning members from Appropriations, eight from Energy and Commerce and seven from Ways and Means, according to a new committee roster list obtained by Roll Call.

Two members of the Democratic leadership — Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — will keep seats on the Ways and Means Committee. But some rank-and-file Democrats questioned whether the leaders should step down from the plum panel, which will shrink from 26 to 15 Democratic members, to make room for others.

Two influential Democrats — Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Democratic Steering and Policy Vice Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) are among those who were cut from the Appropriations Committee, which now has 21 as opposed to 37 Democratic slots. Wasserman Schultz was the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in the past two Congresses.

The three other returning Democrats who were booted from the spending panel are Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) and Ben Chandler (Ky.).

Rep. Edolphus Towns (N.Y.) will rejoin the Energy and Commerce Committee as its fourth most senior member. Rep. Ed Markey (Mass.) who sought a waiver so he could stay on Energy and be the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, is the third most senior member.

Towns last month dropped out of a race to stay on as the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in part to boost his bid to rejoin the Energy and Commerce panel, which he left when he won the Oversight chairman’s post two years ago. Democrats now have 23 seats on the Energy panel, as opposed to 36 in the 111th Congress.