Hastings named top Republican on resources committee

WASHINGTON -- Washington Rep. Doc Hastings on Thursday was named the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, a panel that has jurisdiction over everything from endangered species to federal irrigation projects, from the Bonneville Power Administration to the nation's parks and forests.

The Republican Steering Committee selected Hastings, who served on the committee during his first term in Congress but was required to take a leave of absence when he was appointed to the House Rules Committee. Even so, Hastings' seniority on the Natural Resources Committee continued to accrue.

Hastings ranked fourth in seniority on the resources committee.

"This post offers an opportunity to make a real difference for families and communities across the West and throughout rural America," Hastings said in a statement. "As ranking member, I will work to strike a responsible balance between protecting our nation's many natural treasures and spurring economic recovery through wise use of energy, water, minerals and timber resources."

The position became vacant when Alaska Rep. Don Young stepped aside Wednesday under pressure from Republican leadership.

It was unclear whether Hastings will retain his post on the House Rules Committee. Hastings is also the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee. But his term on that committee expires at the end of the current congressional session.

Hastings spoke to the Republican Steering Committee on Thursday morning. The two Republicans with more seniority -- Reps. Jim Saxton of New Jersey and Elton Gallegly of California -- decided not to seek the post. The full Republican caucus does not have to approve the steering committee's decision.

Though Democrats control the House, as ranking Republican on the committee Hastings will have a say on such issues as fisheries and wildlife, public lands, Native American policy, reclamation, mining and oceanography.

"I think it's great," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash, who used to represent the same district as Hastings but now represents a western Washington district. Inslee said that while he and Hastings disagree on a number of issues such as the Endangered Species Act, they have worked together on some public lands and Bonneville Power Administration issues.

Another Republican lawmaker from eastern Washington state, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, is also a member of the resources committee.

Another Washington state lawmaker, Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks, chairs the interior appropriations subcommittee. The subcommittee controls the purse strings of many of department and agencies under the jurisdiction of the resources committee.