Perhaps C-Span should produce a soap opera titled “As the House Banking Committee Turns.”

The intrigue over who will succeed Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, as House Banking Committee chairman next year deepened last week with a report that Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, may be a contender.

On Monday, Rep. Marge Roukema — a committee member and 20-year House veteran who is the favorite based on seniority — officially threw her hat in the ring. The New Jersey Republican told her fellow committee members in a letter: “I am seeking the chairmanship of the House Banking Committee based not only on my seniority but on my many proven contributions to the committee as well.”

Rep. Richard Baker, chairman of House Banking’s capital markets subcommittee, had been pegged as her only serious rival, but Dow Jones on Tuesday reported talk on Capitol Hill that Rep. Pryce might move from the powerful Rules Committee to Banking, where House procedures would permit her to challenge Rep. Roukema for the chairmanship.

The move would help Republican leaders respond to concerns about Rep. Roukema’s knowledge of banking issues while installing another senior woman in the chairmanship. Rep. Pryce is high in the Republican Party leadership and a former House Banking member who has retained her tenure on the panel. Rep. Pryce’s office would not comment on her interest in the post.

Powerful House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., told Republican colleagues on Wednesday that he is reviewing the structure of House committees and will have a plan ready for them to vote on by January.

Rep. Dreier’s announcement caused pundits to speculate that his review could cause some shifting in committees’ spheres of influence, including transferring the securities and insurance jurisdictions of the Commerce panel to Banking — and perhaps removing some of Banking’s control over housing issues.

Under that scenario — which is backed by Rep. Baker, who would remain as chairman of a more powerful capital markets and securities subcommittee — Rep. Michael Oxley of Ohio, chairman of Commerce’s finance subcommittee, would become Banking chairman. That would solve another problem for House leaders: Commerce Chairman Tom Bliley is retiring, and a fight for the chairmanship has erupted between Rep. Oxley and the panel’s No. 2 Republican, Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin.

Then on Thursday, Rep. Tauzin revealed that he is strategizing with his Commerce colleagues to keep the panel’s power from being diminished.

“We’re preparing to defend our jurisdiction,” he was quoted by CQ Monitor as saying. “We will resist any radical changes.”

Rep. Tauzin predicted that incoming freshmen would want seats on the more powerful Commerce Committee as it is now structured. “There likely will not be radical changes,” he predicted.

Stay tuned for the next installment.


Last week House Banking member Rep. Ken Bentsen floated his solution for the presidential election impasse in a speech at the monthly Exchequer Club luncheon. “Perhaps what we can do is just go ahead and move Alan Greenspan and his wife into the White House, the Bushes could move to Blair House, and the Gores could stay at the Naval Observatory,” the Texas Democrat said.Industry lobbyists greeted his idea with a hearty round of applause.

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