WASHINGTON - The Senate Banking Committee gained two new Republican members, including Minnesota's Rod Grams, a former member of the House Banking Committee.

Also joining the Senate panel Wednesday as the 104th Congress convened was Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Sen. Frist, a heart-transplant surgeon, replaces Jim Sasser, the 18-year Democratic veteran he defeated in November.

Sen. Sasser was a power in the Senate, chairman of the Budget Committee and a leading candidate to succeed George Mitchell as majority leader.

Democrat Richard Bryan of Nevada and Republicans Pete Domenici of New Mexico and William Roth of Delaware left the banking panel for other committee assignments.

Sen. Richard Shelby, who switched parties following last November's election, was seated as the panel's third ranking Republican, behind chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York and Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tex.

Also missing from last year's Democratic lineup is the panel's former chairman, Donald W. Riegle of Michigan, who retired. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland is now the ranking Democrat.

Sen. Frist and Sen. Grams, who served only one term in the House before seeking a Senate seat, are strong conservatives.

Both men benefited immensely in their campaigns from the declining popularity of President Clinton.

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