WASHINGTON -- House leaders made their selections this week to fill 13 vacancies on the House Ways and Means Committee, and in a surprise move expanded the committee by two slots.
Three of the 10 Democrats chosen had widely been expected to gain seats on the panel: Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Oklahoma's Rep. Bill Brewster, and Rep. Gerald Kleczka of Wisconsin.
But Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, D-Mass., also widely rumored to be in line for a Ways and Means seat, was not selected. Other Democrats who were chosen include: Rep. Peter Hoagland, Neb.; Rep. William J. Jefferson, La.; Rep. Mike Kopetski, Ore.; Rep. Michael McNulty, N.Y.; Rep. Richard E. Neal, Mass.; and Rep. Lewis F. Payne, Va.
As expected, the leaders also placed a brand new member of Congress on the committee, but their choice was a surprise: Mel Reynolds, who was elected to Illinois' Second District seat on Nov. 3. Luis Gutierrez, winner of Illinois' Fourth District seat, had been rumored to be their selection, because he would have been the first Hispanic on the committee.
New Republicans on the Ways and Means panel are Rep. Amo Houghton, N.Y.; Rep. Wally Herger, Calif.; Rep. Jim McCrery, La.; Rep. Melton Hancock, Mo.; and Rep. Rick Santorum, Pa.
House leaders originally had been expected to try to pare the size of the 36-member committee, although Capitol Hill observers said that plan had been scrapped because so many members were clamoring for a spot on the panel. The level of interest is probably what caused the leaders to expand the committee, a Ways and Means spokesman said.
"It was a leadership decision in terms of accommodating all the people who wanted to get on," the spokesman said.