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Political shake up.

Members of Congress are voluntarily leaving their elective offices in droves this election year. The historic departure rate will fundamentally reshape the makeup of Congress and its committees.

THE LAST TIME WE focused on the physical makeup of Congress and any 1992 prospective turnover, was in the August 1991 issue of Mortgage Banking magazine. At that time, political pundits were predicting an unprecedented change in the physical makeup of the House of Representatives fueled by redistricting and reapportionment. Some quoted a change of more than 40 to 45 seats. Little did we know that the House bank scandal and the growing "throw the rascals out" attitude would soon see this number jump dramatically to 81 seats, as of this writing. What is shaping up as the biggest congressional overhaul since World War II is being driven not by voters, but by House members deciding to call it quits.

In conversations with members who have announced their retirement, the reasons cited vary from redistricting to a desire to spend more time with their families. Overwhelmingly, however, they expressed a strong feeling of frustration over having become the scapegoats of the news media, the public and even the presidential candidates themselves.

Most experts say that there is no one reason for the high retirement rate, but instead, that a variety of factors have come together.

* Redistricting is pushing members with previously "safe" seats into new areas, forcing them to compete in unfamiliar territory or against another incumbent.

* Recent congressional pay raises have raised pensions to a much higher level than even two years ago, making early retirement more attractive.

* This is the last year a member seated before January 1980 can retire and keep unspent campaign funds for personal use.

* Many members are frustrated by the legislative gridlock. Nothing seems to get done as a result of a preoccupation with scandal and growing public scorn.

Many retirements are, of course, pre-emptive concessions from members who have concluded that they might not be returned to Washington by the voters. Several of those who announced their retirements in recent weeks, for instance, are among those who had the greatest number of bad checks at the House bank.

The Senate has not seen the same surge in retirements, but given 100 members compared to the House's 435, it is not far behind. Thus far, eight incumbents will not be returning: Alan Cranston (D-CA), Alan Dixon (D-IL), Warren Rudman (R-NH), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Jake Garn (R-UT), and Brock Adams (D-WA). The record number of post-World War II Senate retirements was 10, set in 1978.

We have not seen the end of additional members who will choose to leave, and the number will continue to grow as election day nears. It will be historic and a political reference for years to come. However, there is a greater significance to this than just numbers. Among those already leaving are dozens of influential members who have helped define the tone and approach of Congress for decades.

It is their feelings of disillusionment and powerlessness that nothing is accomplished legislatively that we should take note of. This legislative logjam will continue long after these seasoned, well-recognized legislators are gone. Ranking Republicans have especially voiced their frustration--those who have spent their entire careers as part of the minority--Congressman Chalmers Wylie (R-OH) has been in the minority for 26 years. Although he had the added pressure of check floating, he was quoted as saying, "The role of ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee, with its frustrations and lack of opportunity to make the big difference, does not have that much appeal to me."

A member does not have to be in the minority to wonder whether serving in Congress is a way to accomplish anything meaningful. Fiscal constraints, stalemates with the White House and the public's own inability to make hard choices on important public policy issues have shaken the enthusiasm some Democrats have had for legislating. "A combination of the 1990 budget agreement, the large federal deficit and battles between the House and the White House have made it next to impossible to accomplish anything," according to 16-year veteran Donald Pease (D-OH), who is retiring.

Committee Breakdown

Looking at the major committees where leadership slots have been affected:

Ways and Means--The committee with jurisdiction over taxes, trade and most health-care programs. The panel is losing three of its most ardent trade protectionists: Ed Jenkins (D-GA), Donald J. Pease (D-OH) and Dick Schulze (R-PA).

Jenkins is Congress' leading defender of the domestic textile industry, and he has been frustrated in his perennial push to enact legislation limiting the growth in textile imports. Pease was organized labor's champion during its unsuccessful 1991 effort to block the Bush administration's proposed free-trade agreement with Mexico. Schulze, a strong defender of the steel industry, often joins Democrats in legislation to shield domestic industries from overseas competition.

Jenkins has also been the leading Democratic advocate for cutting the capital gains tax rate.

Other committee departures include three outspoken liberals: Marty Russo (D-IL), Brian Donnelly (D-MA) and Jim Moody (D-WI), who were generally reliable votes for Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL).

Appropriations--At least 14 coveted seats on this panel will come vacant. Among those retiring are Bill Lehman (D-FL), who chairs the Transportation Subcommittee, and that panel's ranking Republican, Larry Coughlin, (R-PA).

Bob Carr (D-MI) is in line to succeed Lehman as chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) is in line to succeed Coughlin as ranking Republican, but Wolf is already ranking member on the Treasury-Postal Service Subcommittee. If Wolf stays where he is, Tom DeLay (R-TX) could become the transportation panel's ranking Republican member.

Also leaving Appropriations are Edward R. Roybal (D-CA), the chairman of the Treasury-Postal Service Subcommittee (as well as the Select Aging Committee) and Carl D. Pursell (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the Labor-HHS Subcommittee.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) is in line to succeed Roybal as chairman of the Treasury-Postal Service Subcommittee and John Porter (R-IL) is in line to succeed Pursell as ranking GOP member on Labor-HHS.

Also departing the panel are mid- to low-ranking Democrats Les AuCoin (D-OR), Lindsay Thomas (D-GA), Robert J. Mrazek (D-NY) and Bernard J. Dwyer (D-NJ).

Energy and Commerce--Retiring is Dennis E. Eckart of Ohio, the 12th ranking Democrat, a favorite of Chairman John D. Dingell (D-MI) and an emerging power on the committee. He is the second-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Transportation and Hazardous Materials.

Also departing is Californian William E. Dannemeyer, the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.

Banking--Obviously the committee that mortgage bankers are most concerned with is the House Banking Committee. Departing Democrats include: Frank Annunzio (D-IL), rather than face Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) in the same district, Carroll Hubbard (D-KY), who lost his primary, Doug Barnard (D-GA) and Charles Luken (D-OH), both are retiring and Tom Carper (D-DE), who is running for governor. Other Democrats are: Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH), Ben Erdreich (D-AL), Peter Hoagland (D-NE), Jim Bacchus (D-FL) and John Cox (D-IL), who all face tough re-elections. It has been mentioned that Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), Floyd Flake (D-NY) and Jerry Kleczka (D-WI) may seek other committee assignments, while Liz Patterson (D-SC) is often mentioned as a candidate for governor.

Looking at Republicans: Ranking member Chalmers Wylie (R-OH) is retiring. He has been looked on as a conciliator, a carrier of the administration's water when he could, and often a broker between the administration and the Democratic majority. Also absent will be Tom Campbell (R-CA), who left to run for U.S. Senate. Other Republicans are: Mel Hancock (R-MO), Frank Riggs (R-CA) and Jim Nussle (R-IA), all facing tough re-election bids, as well as Bill Paxon (R-NY) and John Duncan (R-TN) who are rumored to want off the committee.

The year 1992 will see a great change in this Banking Committee of 51 members. Perhaps as many as half the current members could be gone.

The Mortgage Bankers Association of America's (MBA) Washington legislative staff and members who assist with lobbying efforts will be faced with a massive re-education effort. Let's not forget that many of the new members of the 103rd Congress are coming to Washington, D.C. with a mandate from the voters not to promote the status quo, but to change the process, disrupt the old and shake things up. It will be our job as an association to make sure this "shake up" doesn't result in our industry's "shake down."

The best response by MBA in preparing for this legislative challenge is to involve ourselves early. MORPAC, the association's political action committee, is investigating candidates, through interviews and meetings and helping to shore up those incumbents who have tough races. MORPAC contributes to those individuals who have an understanding of the housing and real estate finance industry. Our financial involvement is coupled with developing a strong personal relationship with the candidate and his or her staff. Nothing will replace the "building of personal relationships" as a way to ensure that our legislative voice is heard on Capitol Hill. Our PAC contributions help to defray the costs of campaigns. The purchase of television and radio time to educate the voters; direct mail and newspaper ads to bring the message into the constituents' homes; and even the day-to-day mechanics of a campaign, such as feeding volunteers and putting gas in the campaign car, all come into play.

To date, MORPAC has raised close to $215,000 of its aggressive 1992 goal of $300,000. This will all go directly to candidates. MORPAC offers MBA members the opportunity to get involved and participate in the political process for the good of the association and the industry. Help us ensure the "shake up" doesn't become the "shake down."

Mark Bolduc is director of MORPAC, the political action committee of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
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Title Annotation:voluntary resignation of members of Congress from their elective offices in 1992
Author:Bolduc, Mark
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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