WASHINGTON -- Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, has retained her seat on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, picking up a special waiver from the Republican leadership that will allow her to sit on three committees.
Mrs. Bentley chose to drop the Merchant Marine committee last month when assignments were being made, but pressure from the Republican leadership and the maritime industry compelled her to reconsider, she said.
"All the people were screaming at me, the maritime people," the four-term Lutherville congresswoman said yesterday. She has been one of the strongest voices in Congress for the port of Baltimore and maritime interests nationally.
Last week the Republican Committee on Committees allowed Mrs. Bentley to retain the Merchant Marine Committee chair, as well as her positions on the House Budget Committee and the Public Works and Transportation Committee. Under the rules of the Republican conference, a member who sits on a major committee is allowed to sit on only one additional committee.
Such a waiver is not rare on Capitol Hill. One was picked up by former Representative Roy P. Dyson, who served on the Agriculture, Armed Services and Merchant Marine committees.
An aide to Mrs. Bentley also said that since other members of Congress expressed little interest in gaining a seat on the committee, the congresswoman was able to retain her post.
Mrs. Bentley said she hopes to use her position to continue her "oversight of the U.S. merchant marine," noting that she was troubled by the "heavy reliance" on foreign-flag vessels to transport material to Desert Storm troops in the Persian Gulf
"It is essential we not only safeguard against any further deterioration of the industry, but to initiate programs to transform it into a viable, active fleet," she said.
The position also will undoubtedly help the congresswoman in her campaign fund raising. She has traditionally received strong financial support from the political action committees of the maritime industry and unions.