WASHINGTON -- Because he is the second-ranking member of the panel, Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer could be the new chairman of a key appropriations subcommittee.
Rep. Edward R. Roybal, D-Calif., who chairs the subcommittee on the treasury, postal service and general government, has announced his retirement after this congressional session.
The subcommittee determines how much the government can spend to lease and build facilities and on programs that affect federal employees.
Mr. Hoyer, D-5th, is seeking re-election this year. He has been a member of the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee for nine years. From his chair on the panel, he was largely responsible for getting the National Archives research center for
the University of Maryland-College Park.
He also was a major force in getting funding for the reconstruction of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the building of the Metro Green Line in Prince George's County.
Mr. Hoyer said yesterday that the chairmanship of the subcommittee "puts you in a position where you can be competitive" in getting more projects like the research center for Maryland.
The chairmen of the 13 appropriations subcommittees are known as "the College of Cardinals" because of the disproportionate amount of power they wield. The bills that are passed by Congress are only so many pieces of paper until the proper appropriations subcommittee decides to fund them.
Mr. Hoyer can pack even more of a wallop in partnership with Maryland Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee in the Senate. "In an era of shrinking resources, [and] in a state that has been historically reliant on federal contributions, it seems critical that there are two of us to protect a small state's interests," he said.
Appropriations subcommittee chairmanships are subject to approval by the Democratic Caucus, the formal name for the House Democrats. But Mr. Hoyer's position as caucus chairman renders such a vote even more token than is usually the case. And chairmanships nearly always fall to the member who has been on the subcommittee the longest, as Mr. Hoyer will be if re-elected.
He could assume the subcommittee chairmanship in January, at the beginning of the next session.
The subcommittee appropriated about $19 billion last year. It is one of the most important for Maryland. In addition to the possibility of locating federal facilities in the state, the panel and its Senate counterpart control the purse strings of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees federal employees.
The subcommittee also determines the government's contribution to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. Without adequate funding, federal workers would face either higher premiums or fewer benefits than they now enjoy.
Mr. Hoyer, who sponsored a pay reform bill that was passed in 1990, said he is particularly concerned that government workers receive pay comparable to that of their private sector counterparts.
As its name suggests, the subcommittee is responsible for funding the Treasury Department, which includes the Internal Revenue Service, and the Postal Service. Mr. Hoyer said he plans to use his new position to get the IRS to computerize its functions and files.