Young accepts new leadership role

Lawmaker elected as minority leader on House Resources Committee

Posted: Friday, December 08, 2006

FAIRBANKS - Alaska Rep. Don Young lost his bid to be ranking minority member on the U.S. House Transportation Committee but was elected to that post on the Resources Committee.

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The House Republican caucus on Tuesday approved rules that, under some interpretations, blocked Young from remaining as the ranking minority party member on the Transportation Committee under the new Democratic majority.

Young has spent the past six years as chairman of the committee.

Republicans and Democrats praised his work Wednesday as the House passed the last bill crafted under his oversight, a pipeline safety measure.

Even if Republicans had kept majority control of the House in the elections Nov. 7, Young would have had to step down from the chairmanship to comply with a six-year term limit in Republican caucus rules.

He had been hoping to remain as ranking member. However, new caucus rules say a chairman who has served a full six years cannot then continue as the same committee's ranking member.

Young said he expects to remain deeply involved with transportation issues.

"I may not be the ranking member, but I will be on the committee," Young said on the House floor Wednesday night during discussion of the pipeline measure.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., will take over as chairman. He said Young succeeded last year in creating "the biggest transportation investment, single bill, in the history of our country."

"I will always remember Chairman Young's courage, Mr. Speaker, in standing before the president advocating for a robust investment of $375 billion as recommended by the Department of Transportation, and standing before his own Republican conference and advocating, and staying the course, not wilting along the wayside," Oberstar said.

President Bush eventually forced Young to back down from the $375 billion. The five-year bill provided $286 billion for highways.

Young's earmarks in that bill for bridges near Anchorage and Ketchikan drew widespread derision and some commentators said the furor contributed to the Republican loss in November.

After the floor voice vote on the pipeline bill Wednesday, Young hurried to a reception in the Transportation Committee's main hearing room for more toasts to his tenure as chairman.

Young was picked Thursday as the ranking minority member on the Resources Committee.

He served as Resources chairman 1995 through 2000. Since there has been a break in his service as the party's top member, caucus rules allow him to rejoin as the ranking member.

Young said the position will be good for Alaska. He said his experience will help to strike a proper balance in the stewardship in the nation's lands and waters.

"I have always been a team player able to develop and pass bipartisan legislation when called upon," he said. "I have also developed a reputation for fighting for what is needed by our country, and protecting what members tell me is important in their districts."

Legislation opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum leasing is not expected to be considered under the Democratic majority.

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