Peterson, Oberstar could get promotions if Dems take control of the House
ST. PAUL -- The Nov. 7 election could propel a pair of Minnesota congressmen to key positions in the U.S. House. If Democrats take over the House, Minnesotans probably would lead two of the most important committees to the state -- those dealing ...
ST. PAUL -- The Nov. 7 election could propel a pair of Minnesota congressmen to key positions in the U.S. House.
If Democrats take over the House, Minnesotans probably would lead two of the most important committees to the state -- those dealing with agriculture and transportation.
"They can funnel a whole lot of money back to Minnesota," said political science Professor Greg Thorson of the University of Minnesota Morris.
Or, as U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar said: "You can't imagine how quickly agencies respond when chairmen call ... especially when two chairmen call."
Oberstar -- who represents the northeast, north-central and east-central parts of Minnesota -- stands to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if Democrats take control. Rep. Collin Peterson, congressman for most of western Minnesota, would be chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
There are 24 major House committees.
"We are looking at two very important committees in the Congress," Thorson said. "At the very least, we would expect that bills that may be written that are objectionable to the state will not move forward."
However, the state's top Republican said Minnesotans should not make decisions about who to send to Washington based on how much pork they can send back home.
"Let's not rob Wisconsin to pay Minnesotan," GOP Chairman Ron Carey said.
Electing Democrats to bring home money is short sighted, Carey said. Decisions should be made on the value of proposals, no matter who benefits, he added.
Recent polls make it appear more and more possible that Democrats could regain the control of the House that they lost in a 1994 Republican landslide election. The Senate is less likely to flip to the Democrats, polls show.
Thorson predicts a better than 50-50 chance for Democrats to win the House. In the Senate, he sees just a 30 percent to 35 percent chance.
One recent poll shows 54 percent of Americans favor Democratic House candidates over Republicans.
Democrats would have to win 15 more seats in the 435-member House to take control. All House seats are up for election.
Thorson said one issue that Peterson could block would be trade agreements with other countries -- such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement -- that he has opposed over the years.
"Any future trade agreements would have to have regulations that would be more friendly to our region's farmers than is currently the case in those trade agreements," the professor said.
Also, since Peterson strongly supports alternative fuels such as ethanol, Thorson predicted that issue would gain more prominence in the House.
Peterson did not respond in time to be included in this story after three requests to his campaign.
Oberstar said he would emphasize more funding for rural and urban transit, including trains to take commuters into the central Twin Cities. Oberstar said Minnesotans should not expect a major shift in transportation policy immediately since the current transportation bill has three years remaining.
Peterson and Oberstar have little doubt they will be chairmen, even though the final decision has not been made. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco made a public commitment to Peterson when she was in Minnesota earlier this year. Oberstar said he is not worried because fellow Democrats have elected him their top transportation person for the past six congresses.
The transportation and agriculture committees are among the least partisan ones in the House.