WASHINGTON - Momentum for Rep. Michael Oxley to become chairman of an expanded House Banking Committee increased on Tuesday, despite a last-ditch appeal by Rep. Marge Roukema to win the post.
Rep. Roukema called the timing of the plan to install Rep. Oxley "political," and vowed to challenge him for the chairmanship of the panel.
If House Republican leaders pass over a "senior and extremely well-qualified woman," Rep. Roukema said in an interview Tuesday, "that's not a good message for the Republican Party to be sending out."
Rep. Roukema was scheduled to take her case to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert late in the day, but sources on Capitol Hill said the New Jersey lawmaker had little chance of success.
House Republicans were poised to approve on Tuesday night a proposal that would move jurisdiction of securities and insurance issues from the House Commerce Committee to House Banking, and rename it the Committee on Financial Services. That would tee the new panel up for leadership by Rep. Oxley, who was chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee on finance.
A full House vote on the plan was scheduled for today, and the 25-member party steering committee is expected to approve new committee chairmen on Thursday.
Rep. Roukema had long been considered a favorite for the job because of her years of service on House Banking. But party leaders have settled on a different route to resolve the competing chairmanship claims over the Commerce Committee and other considerations, including questions about the New Jersey Republican's expertise on banking issues.
Banking Committee members have described the shift as a natural reaction to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which broke down the legal barriers among the banking, securities, and insurance industries.
The shift also would resolve a turf war between Rep. Oxley, R-Ohio, and Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, R-La., over the chairmanship of House Commerce. If all goes as Republican leaders have planned, Rep. Oxley will be given the Financial Services Committee gavel, and Rep. Tauzin will be named chairman of House Commerce, sources said Tuesday.
Republican leaders are expected to make efforts to appease the losers of the House Banking race. Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., who endorsed the plan to combine the two committees in a statement Tuesday, is expected to be rewarded with the chairmanship of a more powerful subcommittee that would oversee securities companies, capital markets, and government-sponsored enterprises.
Rep. Marge Roukema is said to be in line to return as chairwoman of an expanded financial services subcommittee with oversight of insurance matters, or offered a position in the Bush administration, such as chairwoman of the Joint Economic Council.
When asked if she has discussed a Bush administration position with party leaders, Rep. Roukema said she "knows nothing about that." She added that she does not know if she would accept such a position.
Though Rep. Roukema noted that she has been a longtime supporter of expanding the jurisdiction of the committee on which she has served for 20 years, she said she objects to using jurisdictional realignment to resolve the conflict over the Commerce Committee chairmanship.
"I do not believe this chairmanship should be a political decision," she said. "We need the realignment, but that does not qualify [Rep. Oxley] as the best qualified for the job."