WASHINGTON - As the dust settles from Tuesday's election, Republicans in Washington state's congressional delegation are positioned to play a leading role in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, while the state's Democrats say they can still be effective despite their minority status.
Republican Rep. Doc Hastings, whose district covers most of central Washington, is in line to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He already has signaled he’s prepared to provide tough oversight of the Obama administration’s policies on offshore oil drilling, federal lands, and what Hastings calls an irrational oceans policy.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington will seek another term as vice chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 slot in GOP leadership. She also should become chairwoman of the work force protection subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Both Hastings and McMorris Rodgers are considered allies of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is expected to become the next House speaker. Hastings’ former chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, is a senior adviser to Boehner.
Newly elected Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera, whose congressional district extends from Olympia south, has her eye on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But she also might be interested in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which could spearhead investigations of the administration on any number of fronts.
Herrera said she’s interested in that committee not to take on the Obama administration, but to start reforming the federal government.
“I am not interested in being part of a gotcha committee,” said Herrera, who succeeds retiring Democrat Brian Baird. “I am not interested in throwing grenades. I want to get stuff done. I want solutions. I don’t think people want bomb throwers.”
Herrera has a powerful patron in McMorris Rodgers. Herrera, who had backing from the tea party, is a former McMorris Rodgers aide. Both Hastings and McMorris Rodgers serve on the GOP Steering Committee, which hands out committee assignments.
As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Rep. Dave Reichert will be in the thick of the fight over extending the Bush tax cuts and repealing the Democratic health care overhaul.
Reichert is 10th in seniority among Republicans on the large committee and could be in line for a subcommittee chairmanship. He would like to get appointed to the health and trade subcommittees.
Reichert said he’ll remain a moderate in a Republican caucus that with the election will shift even further to the right.
Though he won re-election rather handily, Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks may be among the biggest losers as a result of the election.
If Democrats had retained their majority in the House, Dicks would have become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls roughly $1 trillion in federal spending. In 1994, Dicks was poised to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans swept to power.
“It is definitely déj vu, but you have to play the hand you are dealt,” Dicks said from his home on Hood Canal. “Life goes on.”