WASHINGTON -- Jockeying has begun over a looming vacancy in the House Appropriations Committee leadership, so Massachusetts residents may be permitted to daydream about the extra clout the state would wield if Representative John Olver of Holyoke, who is a subcommittee chairman, assumed the overall chairmanship of the powerful committee.
But Olver today gave a clear answer: Keep dreaming.
"Of course I'm interested in the chairmanship. I'm interested in who is the chairman," Olver said, declaring that he has no personal aspirations to succeed the retiring Wisconsin Democrat David Obey.
As tenth in seniority (including Obey), Olver, a 19-year House veteran, is a bit too far down the ladder to compete for the chairmanship, although House rules don't preclude it. But Olver is already a "cardinal,'' meaning he chairs an appropriations subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development. Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship are unusually powerful, since the panels determined how much money the government spends on federal programs.
The Appropriations Committee itself is considered so powerful that its members are not allowed to serve on any other committees.
Olver noted that Massachusetts is already blessed with one chairmanship -- Representative Barney Frank heads the Financial Services Committee. And the number may well grow, he added. Representative Richard E. Neal,. Democrat of Springfield, is a strong candidate to take the House Ways and means Committee chairmanship next year. Representative James McGovern, Democrat of Worcester, is second in seniority on the House Rules Committee, which writes the final versions of all bills and determined what amendments, if any, may be offered on the floor.
Representative Louise Slaughter, Democrat of New York, currently chairs the panel and said Thursday she intends to run for re-election. While the 81-year-old lawmaker is known on the Hill for having more energy than many 20-something staffers, she presumably will retire before the 50-year-old Massachusetts congressman, giving McGovern a shot at the chairmanship once held by the late Representative Joseph Moakley of Boston. McGovern was once a staffer for Moakley.
Representative Edward Markey, meanwhile, already chairs the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, and is a subcommittee chair and senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Several other members of the delegation hold subcommittee chairmanships.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.