WASHINGTON — As the dust settles from Tuesday’s election, Republicans in Washington state’s congressional delegation are positioned to play a leading role in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives while the state’s Democrats say they can still be effective despite their minority status.
Republican Rep. Doc Hastings, whose district covers most of central Washington, is in line to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He already has signaled he’s prepared to provide tough oversight of the Obama administration’s policies on offshore oil drilling, federal lands, and what Hastings calls an irrational oceans policy.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents an eastern Washington district, will seek another term as vice chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 slot in GOP leadership. She also should become chairman of the workforce protection subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Both Hastings and McMorris Rodgers are considered allies of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is expected to become the next House speaker. Hastings’ former chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, is a senior adviser to Boehner.
Newly elected Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera, whose congressional district extends from Olympia south, has her eye on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But she also might be interested in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which could spearhead investigations of the administration on any number of fronts.
Herrera said she’s interested in that committee not to take on the Obama administration, but to start reforming the federal government.
“I am not interested in being part of a gotcha committee,” said Herrera, who succeeds retiring Democrat Brian Baird. “I am not interested in throwing grenades. I want to get stuff done. I want solutions. I don’t think people want bomb throwers.”
Herrera has a powerful patron in McMorris Rodgers. Herrera, who had backing from the tea party, is a former McMorris Rodgers aide. Both Hastings and McMorris Rodgers serve on the GOP Steering Committee, which hands out committee assignments.
As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Rep. Dave Reichert will be in the thick of the fight over extending the Bush tax cuts and repealing the Democratic health care overhaul.
Reichert is 10th in seniority among Republicans on the large committee and could be in line for a subcommittee chairmanship. He would like to get appointed to the health and trade subcommittees.
Reichert said he’ll remain a moderate in a Republican caucus that with the election will shift even further to the right.
“It’s not time for all of us in this party to throw a tea party,” he said. “This was not a one-time revolt by citizens across the country who want an effective government. If people throw bombs and there is stalemate, there could just as easily be another turnover in Congress in two years.”
Reichert supports a measure that would repeal the health care law approved earlier this year, but he also supports replacing it with something a little friendlier to small businesses.
Though he won re-election rather handily, Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks may be among the biggest losers as a result of the election.
If Democrats had retained their majority in the House, Dicks would have become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls roughly $1 trillion in federal spending. In 1994, Dicks was poised to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans swept to power.
“It is definitely deja vu, but you have to play the hand you are dealt,” Dicks said from his home on Hood Canal, where he was watching a blue heron on his dock. “Life goes on.”
Dicks will be the top Democrat on the committee. In the chummy, less partisan world of appropriators he still should be able to protect the state’s interests. But there could be changes coming, as Republicans banned their members last year from seeking earmarks — a ban that could become House-wide now that they’re in charge.
“It’s not like being chairman,” Dicks said of being the top Democrat on the committee. “But I will cooperate and try to get bills passed.”
Dicks, along with Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, isn’t a stranger to being in the minority.
“You have a job to do whether you are in the majority or the minority,” said Smith.
Smith will continue to serve on the House Intelligence Committee and as the top Democrat on the air and land forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
Smith said both Democrats and Republicans have something to learn from the election.
“People are not happy with the direction of politics in this country,” Smith said. “It is too partisan, too ideological. Both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to do politics differently.”