Newest rep already has clout

Democratic 1st District Rep. Travis Childers became the newest member of the House of Representatives Tuesday to rousing applause from Democrats – and glum looks from Republicans.

He cast his first vote minutes after his swearing-in on the House floor. It was in favor of a bill that would make it illegal for foreign oil cartels to fix prices.

“His re-election is a high priority for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

She said Childers is “following in the footsteps” of former Rep. Jamie Whitten, a Democrat who represented the district for 54 years before Roger Wicker won it in 1994.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland has given Childers a seat on the Agriculture Committee and said he’s negotiating with him over other committee assignments.

Childers said he wants a seat on the prestigious Financial Services Committee – and his status as a symbol of victory for the Democratic Party may help him get it.

Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, another conservative Democrat who campaigned for Childers, said the Blue Dog Coalition, which has limited itself to 47 members, is looking for a way to include Childers in its ranks.

Melancon said he hopes Childers’ win encourages other Southern Democrats to run in the fall.

And he had some advice for the new House member: Stay independent from the party’s more liberal leaders.

“I’d tell him, ‘Remember who gave you that voting card,”‘ Melancon said, referring to the card House members use to cast floor votes. “It wasn’t the Democratic Party.”

Clarion Ledger
5/21/8