Nov. 3 2010 10:35 AM

Meet the likely incoming Republican chiefs of the powerful House committees

Hal Rogers
Photo courtesy of U.S. Congress

This editorial assumes a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. If by some miracle that didn’t happen on Tuesday—well, never mind. But if it did, here are the people rumored to be bound for the cushiest chairs on some of the House’s most powerful committees:

• Spencer Bachus (Alabama), Financial Services: By virtue of his lackluster battle against committee Democrats, Bachus isn’t a lock for this post, but in a Bloomberg story this week, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a senior Republican on the panel, said he expects Bachus to get it. Bachus wants to slow down the speed of Wall Street regulation and said recently that the GOP must be “brave” when it comes to potentially shutting down the government in the event of a budget showdown with Obama.

Bachus also hates online poker.

• Dave Camp (Michigan), Ways and Means: The Ways and Means Committee handles tax policy. Camp is a proponent not only of extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but also of lowering corporate taxes in the name of global competition. Camp had no serious challenge to his seat this election cycle, yet he still raked in $2.7 million in campaign contributions, far more than his previous high. Why? Because corporate lobbyists understand the power he’s about to wield. (It’s worth noting that committee chairs from both parties regularly scoop up industry cash.)

• Darrell Issa (California), Oversight and government Reform: Vista’s very own Congress member will be handed the keys to the closet where subpoena power is stored, and everyone with a pulse thinks he’ll use it to annoy the crap out of the White House and the Democrats. Anyone remember his bluster over acorn? For more, see Page 6.

• Pete King (New York), Homeland Security: King is among Congress’ top prompters of the exclamation “Jesus, what a jackass!” He’s characterized by his ardent support for the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act and his frothing opposition to illegal immigration and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He spoke out against a proposed Islamic center at Ground Zero. And, yes, he was the guy who found it necessary to record a video calling Michael Jackson a “child molester” and a “pervert” because he was so annoyed with fawning coverage of Jackson’s death.

• Buck McKeon (California), Armed Services: It’s simply not possible for a Republican to ascend to the top of Armed Services without being a squawking war hawk. A man named “Buck” would seem straight out of central casting for this role, and McKeon wears the steel-toed boots well. He’s collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from defense companies and, not surprisingly, is pushing for greater spending on weapons. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America two weeks ago gave him a C grade on issues important to recent vets.

• Hal Rogers (Kentucky), Appropriations: Rogers, in Congress since 1980, is known as one of the most prolific earmarkers in D.C., having funneled nearly $45 million worth of pork to his campaign contributors in fiscal year 2010 alone. Naturally, he wasn’t so keen when GOP leaders recently launched an offensive against the practice. Media in Kentucky and nationally (The New York Times, Rolling Stone) have written critical exposés of his exploits in steering public dollars to his district.

And this is the guy who’s going to head the committee that hands out money.

• Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), Budget: The man in line to lead the House budget panel is one of the GOP’s so-called “Young Guns” and commonly placed near the top of “most powerful Republicans” lists. His Roadmap for America’s Future, if it ever got the votes, would lower taxes for the richest people while dramatically decreasing Social Security and Medicare benefits for most Americans. It’s nice to see someone have the guts to raise the retirement age, but his plan overall prompted The New York Times’ Paul Krugman to call Ryan “The Flimflam Man.”

• Lamar Smith (Texas), Judiciary: As Hal Rogers reported last week, the Judiciary Committee “could become a hotbed of conservative activism” when it comes to the immigration issue under the leadership of Smith, whose ideal federal immigration policy would look a lot like Arizona’s. A report has Smith angling toward pushing the Justice Department to sue California if voters here legalize marijuana. He’s also a strident pro-lifer.

• Fred Upton (Michigan), Energy and Commerce: He’s known as a moderate and deserves a round of applause for getting in Newt Gingrich’s grill back the ’90s. But he also cosponsored a bill that would let internet service providers slow down internet speed for consumers who don’t pay a higher rate; in other words, this was an anti-net-neutrality bill and, therefore, bad news. Still, he’s moderate on environmental issues, so there are worse Republicans to plop into this powerful seat.

What do you think? Write to