House Democrats tentatively plan to repeal term limits for committee chairmanships when the 111th Congress convenes on Tuesday, according to senior House aides. The result would remove one of the signature reforms from the 12-year House Republican rule and likely would cause angry debate during the usually ceremonial opening day festivities.
Although the prospective rules change has been actively pushed by the barons of the House since Democrats regained control two years ago, the elimination of the six-year term limits would not necessarily return the House to the bygone era in which committee chairs ruled without accountability. Among other things, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been a more assertive Speaker than her Democratic predecessors, and she has positioned herself to assure that committee leaders are responsive to her views and those of the Democratic Caucus…
Waxman has been among the most outspoken critics of term limits. When he sought to remove them soon after Democrats took control in 2007, Pelosi reportedly assured him that she would eventually address the issue. (During the 12-year Republican reign in the House, only one committee chairman was ousted: Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, who was viewed as too independent of party leaders during his tenure as chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.)
You could argue that the term limit for committee chairmen was effectively repealed when Democrats organized the House in the last Congress. John Dingell had served as Chairman of the committee for the 14 previous years under Democratic control, and was allowed to continue in that position in 2007-2008. However, Democrats next week will formally repeal that rule before it inconveniences any of the powerful old liberals who opposed it.