WASHINGTON - The 10 House Republicans who are expected to be added to the House Ways and Means Committee are not well-known in the municipal bond community, and some of them may be unfamiliar with issues important to state and local finance, lobbyists said yesterday.
Among the 10 are three brand-new members of Congress: Phil English, of Pennsylvania; John Ensign of Nevada; and Jon Christensen of Nebraska. Three have just completed their first term: Jennifer Dunn of Washington State; Michael Collins of Georgia; and Rob Portman of Ohio.
The other four have just finished their second term: Jim Ramstad of Minnesota; Richard Zimmer of New Jersey; Jim Nussle of Iowa; and Sam Johnson of Texas.
"They don't jump out at me," said a municipal lobbyist.
"I don't know that they're people we've heard of in regard to bonds before," said the lobbyist. "Clearly, a massive education effort will be needed" to explain to new committee members the benefits of tax-exempt finance, the lobbyist added.
The 10 were proposed by the House Republican Steering Committee earlier this week and must still be ratified by the full House Republican Conference in January, congressional aides said.
Of the seven Republicans with track records in the House, most are described by "The Almanac of American Politics" as young, aggressive conservatives intent on reforming House rules. One of the incoming freshmen, Christensen, shared the podium with incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich when he unveiled the Republicans' Contract With America in September.
Several of the proposed new committee Republicans do not appear to have much experience with issues related to public finance. Johnson, Dunn, and Portman have held no positions in state or local government. Nussle's only work in that regard was as the county attorney for Delaware, Iowa. But Ramstad, Zimmer, and Collins all spent several years in their respective state legislatures.
The steering committee's plan for Ways and Means would cut the total membership to 36 from 38, less of a reduction than proposed by incoming Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer, R-Tex.
In 1994 the Ways and Means panel had 38 members: 24 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Archer had said he wanted to trim the membership to 29 members, with 17 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
Under the steering committee proposal, the committee would have 36 members, with 21 Republicans and 15 Democrats.
Five Democrats were already slated to leave the panel, either because of retirement or because some, like Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., were defeated in their reelection bids. But that still leaves four committee spots to be eliminated. The Democrats expected to be removed from the panel are: Michael McNulty of New York, William Jefferson of Louisiana, Bill Brewster of Oklahoma, and Mel Reynolds of Illinois.
John Vogt, the vice president of the Public Securities Association, said that while the association will "miss our friends who are leaving the committee, we very much look forward to working with this new and impressive group of Republicans."
In a related development, the leadership is proposing to eliminate the panel's subcommittee on select revenue measures as part of a broader effort to scale back the number of subcommittees on all House committees, the aides said.
The subcommittee has been significant for the tax-exempt bond community because the panel held hearings on issues related to municipal finance. However, bond legislation was drafted at the full committee level.