June 16, 2002 - Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: RPCV Congressman James Walsh a member of the "College of Cardinals"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Congressional Relations: June 16, 2002 - Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: RPCV Congressman James Walsh a member of the "College of Cardinals"

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, June 16, 2002 - 2:39 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Congressman James Walsh a member of the "College of Cardinals"





Read and comment on this story from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on New York Congressmen with an emphasis on RPCV Congressman James Walsh of New York who is one of the 13 subcommittee chairmen on the powerful House Appropriations Committee at:

New area legislators bring mix of talents*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



New area legislators bring mix of talents

Redistricting adds incumbents holding power bases in Congress

By John Machacek Democrat and Chronicle

(June 16, 2002) Rep. Amo Houghton is perhaps Congress's wealthiest member but is also known for a strong social conscience and centrist politics.

Rep. Jim Walsh was a Peace Corps volunteer and civic activist who followed his father's political footsteps and now helps control Congress's purse strings.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a former public relations executive, has become a champion for the environment in Congress.

These three upstate New York Republican lawmakers will join the Rochester region's congressional delegation under a state-approved redistricting plan now being scrutinized by the Justice Department and a federal court.

Houghton, estimated to be worth more than $700 million as the scion of the family that founded Corning Inc., would absorb a huge chunk of southeastern Monroe County and most of Ontario County into his Southern Tier district.

Walsh, who grew up in Syracuse and was elected 14 years ago to a House seat held by his father in the 1970s, is slated to add Wayne County and the towns of Irondequoit and Webster to his Onondaga County base.

Boehlert (pronounced Bow-lert), a Utica native who served as his predecessor's chief of staff and is one of the most liberal House Republicans, would pick up Geneva in Ontario County.

While there is justified concern that the area's influence in Congress will be diluted by carving up an all-Monroe County district now represented by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, the trio of Republican incumbents could give the region more clout, especially if the GOP keeps control of the House in the November election.

Add Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, Erie County, and the winner of a likely race between Slaughter and Rep. John LaFalce, D-Tonawanda, Erie County, and the Rochester region will be able to claim a five-member House delegation.

Of the new members of the Rochester delegation, Walsh would be particularly helpful to the region's quest for federal aid. He is a rising star on the House Appropriations Committee, which determines annual spending by government agencies. And as chairman of that panel's Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Development-Independent Agencies subcommittee, he makes key decisions on what Congress will spend for housing, urban needs, environmental cleanups and government-funded research.

Boehlert is chairman of the House Science Committee, which among other things recommends federal funding levels for university-based and high-tech research, another Rochester-area priority.

Houghton is a subcommittee chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax and health care legislation, but also oversees trade -- a major concern in the export-minded Rochester region.

The three upstate Republicans say they are capable of broadening their focus to deal with Rochester-area needs.

"I have passed the stage of where I consider myself a congressman representing a district," Boehlert said. "I consider myself a New York representative because of my committee chairmanship, seniority in the House and as the highest-ranking New Yorker on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. All of that gives me responsibilities far beyond the borders of my district."

Boehlert said he already has worked closely with Rochester business and university leaders on high-tech and science committee initiatives. He was in Rochester two months ago to meet with Eastman Kodak Co.'s senior management and to participate in a roundtable discussion with faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology. He was also the featured speaker at RIT's Inventors Dinner in April.

Walsh said the new congressional lines will require upstate House members to be less provincial and to begin thinking differently about common challenges facing Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.

Houghton said the redrawn congressional boundaries are an "unfortunate slicing of the pie" for the Rochester area. But he said he understands how to work in a community where there is more than one representative. After the 1992 redistricting, Houghton, Walsh and former Rep. Bill Paxon split the Auburn area previously represented by then Rep. Frank Horton, a Rochester-area Republican.

"It will be far less difficult for me to represent an urban area and a rural area at the same time than it was for me to go from the business world into politics," said Houghton, former CEO of Corning Inc. "I'm not yet familiar with the details of local issues in Rochester, but I have been there more than I have to other upstate cities. I have friends there."

Houghton, who turns 76 in August, considered retiring from Corning to become a missionary in Africa in 1986. But he instead answered the GOP's call to run for a House seat that came open when incumbent Democrat Stan Lundine was tapped by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to run for lieutenant governor.

Family history in government service also played a part in his decision. His father was ambassador to France. His grandfather was a congressman in the 1920s. Easygoing and unpretentious (he officially adopted his nickname, Amo, instead of using Amory when he got to Congress), Houghton has relied on his business instincts as a lawmaker.

"He may well be more what the Founding Fathers had in mind than the politically adept youngsters with few local ties who win in so many districts," says the Almanac of American Politics, the bible on congressional backgrounds.

Like Boehlert, he is a liberal Republican who sometimes parts company with the House's conservative leadership on social issues such as abortion (he is pro-choice except for partial-birth abortion) and reducing funds for the arts (he strongly supports the National Endowment for the Arts). Generally, he is a free-trade supporter but has led efforts to protect the steel and lumber industries from foreign imports.

Five years ago, he founded and helped finance the Mainstreet Partnership, a think tank and meeting ground for Republican moderates and remnants of the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party.

Walsh, who turns 45 on Wednesday, sticks closer to the GOP party line than either Houghton or Boehlert because of his committee leadership posts.

But in recent years he increasingly has voted middle-of-the-road on most issues. In 2000, he voted a conservative position 51 percent of the time on economic social issues, according to ratings by the National Journal, a magazine that covers Congress and federal agencies.

Walsh angered teachers unions in the mid-1990s by advancing legislation to allow a limited school choice experiment in District of Columbia schools. The measure died in the Senate, but it helped Walsh make his mark as the then-chairman of the District of Columbia subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

As one of the 13 subcommittee chairmen on the powerful Appropriations Committee, Walsh is part of what congressional insiders call the college of cardinals.

Last year, he used his clout as chairman of the VA-HUD subcommittee to earmark at least $70 million in pork-barrel projects for his Syracuse district and considerably more for other areas. About $7.6 million of the $12 million that Rochester industry and universities received to build a new technology center in Canandaigua came from a Walsh initiative.

Boehlert, 66, may well be the most pivotal player in the House Republican Conference. With the House under Republican control since 1995, he has walked a tightrope between leading fights against anti-environmental legislation pushed by GOP leaders and proving his loyalty on other issues.

He was among a few GOP moderates who supported former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's rise to power. In return, Gingrich named Boehlert to be co-chairman of a GOP task force on environmental issues, a step that led to passage of a few environment-friendly laws in the mid-1990s.

But as other Republicans complained that Boehlert had gained too much influence over environmental issues, the Utica-area lawmaker found himself more often in the position of trying to kill or stall efforts to weaken environmental regulations.



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