Freshman Rep. Gowdy to chair D.C. oversight panel
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will announce Tuesday that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) will helm the subcommittee that handles District matters, giving the job to a freshman lawmaker with no record of speaking out on D.C. issues.
Gowdy will serve as chairman of the newly formed Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives. Jurisdiction over D.C. was previously held by a subcommittee that also covered the Postal Service and the federal workforce, but Issa has scrambled the old panel structure since taking over as full committee chairman.
Several of the Oversight committee's Republican members from the last Congress have departed for more desirable outposts, which helps explain why the panel will have so many freshmen in the 112th Congress. Another first-term member, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), will serve as vice chairman of the new D.C. subcommittee.
Gowdy, 46, served six years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in Greenville before being elected county solicitor. With the support of local tea party groups, Gowdy ousted veteran Rep. Bob Inglis in a contentious GOP primary last year. He beat Inglis by branding the incumbent insufficiently conservative on a host of issues, including Appropriations earmarks and the war in Iraq, then went on to win the general election with ease in a solidly Republican district.
"As a local prosecutor, Trey has a unique understanding of how to effectively navigate around diverse and complex issues," Issa said in a statement issued by his office.. "That is the kind of experience we need to lead this subcommittee's oversight of our constitutionally mandated Census, our vital public records, and our Nation's Capital."
Because health care is such a key part of the new majority's agenda -- particularly the effort to repeal President Obama's reform measure and replace it with something else -- Gowdy will likely devote a good deal of time as subcommittee chairman to that part of the panel's brief. But District officials and activists will be watching closely to see how he approaches local matters.
Some D.C. residents fear that Republicans will once again use congressional oversight of the city as a lever to change local policies on issues like medical marijuana, needle exchange programs and same-sex marriage. Many in the GOP, as well as some Democrats, are also eager to weaken the District's gun laws significantly, with that effort helping to stall last year's drive to grant D.C. full voting rights in the House. School vouchers could also be a battleground, as many Republicans want to give District students access to government funds to attend private schools.
Much of the power to affect District policies actually lies with the Appropriations Committee, where Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) is chairing the subcommittee that handles the D.C. budget and where controversial policy "riders" have often been born in the past. But Gowdy will also have a key platform, with the ability to call hearings and summon District officials to testify.
If Gowdy has any strongly-held views on D.C. governance issues, he does not appear to have discussed them publicly. As a candidate, Gowdy made clear that he supported gun rights, writing: "As a former federal prosecutor who worked on firearms cases, I can assure you there are sufficient federal laws existing in place to provide for community safety and security." On abortion, he called himself "pro-life plus," saying "[w]e must support crisis pregnancy centers, incentivize adoption, and educate women on preventing pregnancies." Gowdy also contended that "[g]overnment spending is reckless, out of control and threatens to undermine the fundamentals that undergird our democracy."
Because Issa hadn't announced the new subcommittee structure before Tuesday, Democrats had not determined who would serve as ranking member of the panel covering D.C. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) chaired the District subcommittee in the last Congress.
| January 18, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Ben Pershing, Congressional Oversight
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