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« All GOP Hands In MS | Blog Home Page | Lynch A Cinch? »

Committee Politics

One thing we forgot to mention from our earlier post: Both parties are so serious about winning the special election tomorrow in Mississippi's First District that congressional leaders have promised specific committee assignments to both candidates should they win. The moves could benefit each candidate heading into tomorrow's election.

Democratic candidate Travis Childers will win a seat on the Agriculture Committee, party leaders said last week. The First District has plenty of farms in it, and Childers would be in Washington right as Congress finishes work on the farm bill. That means one of Childers' first opportunities in the House would be to secure money for rural farmers whose votes he would need to stay in office come the 111th Congress.

Meanwhile, GOP sources tell Politico's Patrick O'Connor that should Republican candidate Greg Davis pull out a victory, he'll join members of the Veterans' Affairs Committee when he arrives in Washington. The district has a major Air Force base and much of its population are veterans.

To promise a committee assignment is rare, though not unheard of. Occasionally, congressional leadership will allow a promising candidate on the brink of a win to brag that he or she will be able to sit on a certain committee with local importance to their home districts.

Committees that handle transportation, agriculture, commerce and science are good ways to bring home the bacon. Committees with jurisdiction over the armed services, defense, foreign policy and veterans' issues are great ways to boost credentials. Few freshmen get appointed to top committees like Appropriations, Ways and Means or Rules.

Sometimes, though, party leader promises don't work out. In 2006, Republican Senator Conrad Burns made an issue of the fact that his perch on the Appropriations Committee would help him bring more money back to Montana. Democrats blunted that criticism by promising his opponent, Democrat Jon Tester, a seat on the same panel as soon as possible. Tester won by a very narrow margin, but he still doesn't have his seat.

Clarification: We wrote Tester was promised a seat on the panel. He was promised a seat "as soon as possible," according to news accounts at the time. We regret any confusion.