If Democrats capture control of the House of Representatives or the Senate in November's elections, top leadership posts in both chambers of Congress and in powerful committees would change hands.
Here's a thumbnail sketch of some of the most important personnel changes that would occur:
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Speaker of the House—It's now Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., a strong Bush loyalist. If Democrats win, it will be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a liberal feminist from San Francisco who criticizes Bush on virtually everything.
Energy and Commerce Committee—The chairman now is Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a conservative oilman. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., a New Deal-style liberal who believes in strong government regulation.
Financial Services Committee—The chairman now is Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, a free-market conservative. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a liberal activist who believes in using law to reduce inequality and expand affordable housing, Internet taxation and workers' rights.
Government Reform Committee—The chairman now is Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., a centrist who hasn't made many waves but investigated steroid use in Major League Baseball. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a longtime liberal reformer who wants to investigate not only baseball but also tobacco, prescription-drug coverage, the Iraq war, Enron ties and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Judiciary Committee—The chairman now is Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who holds the House's hard-line position against illegal immigrants. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., a civil rights activist who flirted with pursuing impeachment of President Bush but has since backed off, at least for now.
Ways and Means Committee—The chairman now is Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., a brainy, acerbic, pro-business tax-cutter who's retiring. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a scratchy-voiced liberal activist who champions affordable housing, spending for urban renewal and tax policies that promote social and economic justice.
Majority leader—It's now Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who's retiring, a Bush supporter and heart surgeon with a wobbly political hand. If Democrats win, the majority leader will be Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a tart-tongued Bush critic, lawyer, former boxer and Mormon whose conservative social views sometimes take a back seat to the will of his party.
Armed Services Committee—The chairman now is Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former Navy secretary and a courtly Senate traditionalist who champions a strong military. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who's called for phased troop withdrawal from Iraq and has criticized defense spending.
Environment Committee—The chairman now is Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who doubts global warming. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont independent and former Republican who caucuses with Democrats. He's the lead sponsor of legislation that would require power plants, automobiles and businesses to reduce emissions that are thought to contribute to global warming.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—The chairman now is Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., a critic of minimum-wage increases and other employer mandates and an advocate for the coal industry. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a liberal icon who favors increasing the minimum wage, affirmative action and activist government in social and welfare issues.
Senate Judiciary Committee—The chairman now is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a centrist who supports abortion rights and is critical of President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program, but open to compromise. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a liberal critical of Bush and many of his judicial nominees.
Senate Intelligence Committee—The chairman now is Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who's blocked strong oversight of the CIA and Bush's prewar handling of intelligence. If Democrats win, the chairman will be Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who's pushed for more vigorous oversight of the CIA, the lead-up to the Iraq war and the legality of domestic eavesdropping. He's a member of the wealthy Rockefeller dynasty.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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