It’s “Independent Day” in Washington as power in the 50/50 U-S Senate shifts to democrats with Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords’ decision to switch from Republican to Independent. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a republican, loses his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, but Senator Tom Harkin, a democrat, becomes chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Harkin says there’s hasn’t been an Iowan to chair that committee since 1910. Harkin says this gives Iowa a leg up.Grassley, in his new role as leader of the Senate’s tax-writing committee, had become one of the Senate’s power brokers. Harkin says Grassley will still have a big role as the ranking member of the committee.Harkin will also become chairman of the second-largest appropriations sub-committee, the one which writes the budget for federal education, human services, health and labor programs.Harkin says the shift to democrats will put new items on the Senate’s agenda, like an increase in the minimum wage, more federal spending on education, a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and a Patients Bill of Rights which cracks down on H-M-O abuses. He says they can move the agenda more back to a “balance.”The shift will change how the Republican-controlled House does business, too, according to Iowa Congressman Tom Latham, a republican. He says it’s going to be more difficult, but says the president has the ability to bring people together.Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, a democrat, agrees things will change in the House, too. Boswell says there will probably be more of a move toward the middle, which he says is “good to me.”Latham, the republican, says the domino effect of Jeffords’ resignation is a blow to Iowa’s clout in the Senate. But Boswell, the democrat, doesn’t think Iowa’s clout is diminished. He says Iowa is in what he calls “the catbird seat,” with two senior senators in key positions.
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