Senate Republicans selected three new members for the Banking Committee late Wednesday and decided to give each party an additional seat on the panel.
During organizational meetings this week, Republicans tapped Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who was first elected in 1994, and freshmen Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho to fill the three openings for the majority party created by election defeats and the extra seat.
Overall, the 20-member committee will have six new faces.
A spokesman for Sen. Phil Gramm-whose GOP colleagues on the Banking Committee elected him chairman-said Republican leaders expanded the committee because more members were needed to handle tough issues such as financial services reform, which he called the panel's "highest priority" for next year.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has decided to stay on the committee. Senate Democrats announced earlier in the week that he would leave the panel, but his spokeswoman said Wednesday that he changed his mind because the extra slot opened and the party wanted to keep experienced members in place.
The new Democrats on the panel are Sens.-elect Charles E. Schumer of New York, John Edwards of North Carolina, and Evan Bayh of Indiana. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland was renamed ranking member.
Reaction from banking industry officials was generally positive.
"It is a good committee for bankers," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "All the senators are people the industry has worked with well in Washington or at the state level."
"On the whole, we feel they are good additions," said Joe Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association. He added, however, that the shake-up in membership raises questions about how effective the panel will be and whether some new members would push more consumer issues.
"It is a very representative, diverse committee," drawing many members from states with strong community bank and agricultural interests, said Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. However, "it is shaping up to be more of a partisan committee, for better or worse," he said.