WASHINGTON -- The House Republican transition team has agreed to a plan establishing the jurisdiction and size of House committees, including several that have a major effect on issues that are important to the municipal bond market.
The GOP leadership's proposal, which will not become final until it is approved by the full Republican caucus next Wednesday, also would change the ratio of Republicans to Democrats on major panels, such as Ways and Means, so that they would be disproportionately tilted to the GOP -- the same thing the Democrats did when they controlled Congress.
In one slight surprise, the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have a limited right to review any Glass-Steagall reform legislation passed by the House Banking Committee that affects insurance or securities, including municipal bonds.
That goes against a tentative agreement reached earlier this week that would have given sole jurisdiction over Glass-Steagall to the banking committee and prevented the energy panel from blocking attempts by the banking panel to reform the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separates commercial from investment banking.
But Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., the prospective chairman of the energy panel, does not intend to make substantive changes to any Glass-Steagall legislation passed by the banking panel, a spokesman for Bliley said.
The leadership decision to allow the Energy Committee 30 days to review any Glass-Steagall legislation cleared by the Banking Committee was made for courtesy reasons, the Bliley spokesman said.
"It's a half of a loaf" from what House Banking Committee members wanted, another source said.
Bliley has been in tough negotiations with Rep. Jim Leach, the Iowa Republican who is expected to chair the Banking Committee, and the next House speaker, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., on who will oversee bank securities powers.
The current chairman of the Energy Committee, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., has blocked numerous attempts by the Banking Committee to remove barriers between commerical and investment banking, most recently in 1991.
The new jurisdictional arrangement could finally ease the way for reform of the act to allow banks to underwrite municipal revenue bonds, lobbyists said.
Under Glass-Steagall, banks generally can underwrite general obligation bonds but not revenue bonds. About 30 banks have won the right from the Federal Reserve Board to underwrite revenue bonds through affiliates under Section 20 of the act, but most banks cannot qualify for such activity under Fed regulations.
Under the GOP plan, the Banking Committee would lose five members and have a total of 46 seats. The ratio would change from the current lineup of 30 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and one Socialist to 25 Republicans and 21 Democrats.
The number of members on Energy and Commerce would remain at the current 44, but the ratio would change from the current 27 Democrats and 17 Republicans to 24 Republicans and 20 Democrats.
As for housing, a Republican congressional aide confirmed that the housing subcommittee will remain under the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee. Originally, House Republicans had proposed moving it to the Education and Labor Committee, which would be renamed the Empowerment Committee. The aide said plans to rename that committee appear to have been dropped as well.
Another proposal had called for a shift in responsibility for the Community Development Block Grant program away from the Banking Committee and to the Public Works and Transportation Committee, which would be renamed the Public Infrastructure Committee. But the aide said that proposal also has been dropped.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on the District of Columbia will be abolished as expected, House sources said. The GOP plans to form a new subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations to oversee district affairs.
However, the GOP has proposed allowing full committees no more than five subcommittees, and since the government operations panel already has five subcommittees, a special waiver would be required to form a panel on the district, a GOP source said. The House Republican Caucus is expected to grant such a waiver, the source said.
Questions about membership of the panel and the extent of its jurisdiction are unresolved, several sources said.
The transition team's proposal for the Ways and Means Committee is slightly different from the plan proposed earlier by incoming chairman Bill Archer, R-Tex.
In 1994 the Ways and Means panel had 38 members: 24 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Archer said he wanted to trim the membership to 29 members, with 17 Republicans and only 12 Democrats.
Under the transition team's proposal, the committee would have 35 members, with 21 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
If the GOP plan is implemented, a number of Democrats slated to return to the committee would be removed. Municipal lobbyists have said those members have been strong supporters of municipal bonds in the past.
The Democrats likely to be dropped are Richard Neal, Mass.; Michael Mc-Nulty, N.Y.; William Jefferson, La.; Bill Brewster, Okla.; and Mel Reynolds, Ill.
But it is still up in the air whether the new House Republican leadership will allow the House and Energy Committee to keep the health and environment subcommittee within its jurisdiction or whether the subcommittee will be transferred to the Public Works and Transportation Committee, sources said yesterday.
The final decision is expected within the next few days, an Energy and Commerce Committee staff member said.
The health and environment subcommittee has jurisdiction over the safe drinking water act, which, once reauthorized, would create a revolving loan fund that states could use to leverage federal money by issuing tax-exempt bonds to help build and modernize drinking water treatment facilities.
The Public Works and Transportation Committee has jurisdiction over most other types of infrastructure legislation including highways and wastewater treatment facilities.
This possible realignment of jurisdiction over the drinking water legislation is the only change in jurisdiction over infrastructure legislation affecting the municipal market.
The transition team has proposed cutting the public works panel by five members to a total of 58 seats. The ratio would also shift from the current 39 Democrats and 24 Republicans to 31 Republicans and 27 Democrats.
The size of the House Budget Committee would be reduced to 40 members from its current 43. The ratio would shift from 26 Democrats and 17 Republicans to 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats.
House Republicans Shaking Things Up
The following chart details the House Republican transition team's proposel for reducing membership on many of the chamber's committees. The chart shows the membership level in the just-completed 103d Congress and the plan for chenge in the 104th Congress, and the expected split between Republicans and Dcmocrats on each panel. The chart does not include three commiuccs sleied for climination: the Post Office, District of Columbia, and Merchem Merine end Eisheries committees. 103d 104th 104th Size Size Size Republican DemocraticAppropriations 60 52 31 21Energy and Commerce 44 44 24 20Ways and Means 38 35 21 14Rules 13 13 9 4Agriculture 50 47 26 21Armed Services 55 50 27 23Banking 51 46 25 21Foreign Affairs 44 39 21 18Public Works 63 58 31 27Science and Space 55 50 27 23Judiciary 35 35 20 15Budget 43 40 24 16Government Operations 44 38 21 17Education and Labor 39 35 19 16Natural Resources 39 35 19 16Small Business 45 35 19 16Veterans 36 31 17 14House Administration 19 8 5 3Select Intelligence 19 14 8 6Standards 14 14 7 7
Source: House Republican Transition Office