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“I” 1 YI II 11111 11111 1111h. 11111p 111111 1111 tll 1111h 111111 4111 t l 11110 1 11Nh 11:111 111111 4111 11111i 1 1111111 ri By Linda Rocawich Austin Texas newspapers for the past year and more have been filled with moans and groans about the state’s loss of clout in Washington. The subject has usually been the retirement of George Mahon, Bob Poage, Tiger Teague and Omar Burleson, who chaired important committees and had accumulated 150 years of seniority among them. Well, it’s true that, with the retirement or defeat of a total of nine Texans, the congressional lineup is new and different. But the Texas delegation needn’t throw in the towel. The best news in years comes from the House committee on interstate and foreign commerce, which has bucked the traditional seniority system and given Houston Rep. Bob Eckhardt one of the best jobs on Capitol Hill. It elected him chairman of its subcommittee on oversight and investigations, with au, thority to delve into the doings of all federal regulatory agencies and the industries they regulate. He asked for the job last year as soon as the old chairman, John Moss of California, announced his retirement, but Eckhardt later drew opposition from New Yorker John Murphy, a more senior committee member also eyeing the subcommittee’s staff of 27 and budget of close to a million bucks. The fight was touch and go for a while, despite the fact that Murphy already chairs a standing committee and a select committee and so already had plenty to do. That was the least of Murphy’s problems; in mid-campaign, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department is investigating him for alleged tax evasion and failure to register as a foreign agent for the Shah of Iran \(the Houston Chronicle even suggested at one point that, if Eckhardt won, he should repeat the old ad slogan, “I got my job through the In the end, it wasn’t close: the vote was 9 to 18 against Murphy. The oversight subcommittee doesn’t write legislation, but it does get problems out in the open. Eckhardt’s predecessor used the panel as a platform for well-publicized, controversial investigations of the oil and gas industry, tire manufacturers, and life insurance firms, among others. Eckhardt will continue the hard-hitting tradition, and promises to be even better: Moss was known to lose interest in a subject when the news value faded, but the Texan is expected to stick with it until he gets results. Big business interestswhich actively lobbied against himare said to be in a blue funk. There’s no word yet on when hearings will begin, or what the first subject will be, because Eckhardt is still getting things organized. But he told the Observer he’ll soon be looking into rate-making and pricing practices in the oil industry and the rates charged by railroads to haul Western coal \(which curregulations that leave out the intangibleshe’s concerned, for example, that when economists analyze the costs to industry of stringent environmental regulations, they ignore the costs of medical care for people whose health is damaged by the pollulead to what he calls the “new inflation”the current conditions under which costs of the basic necessities of life \(food, twice the rate at which the costs of luxuries go up. As for those moans about Texas’ diminishing clout, con sider sider this: Jim Wright is still the majority leader; Jack Brooks is still chairman of government operations; Ray Roberts is still chairman of veterans’ affairs; Texans hold nine subcommittee chairmanships; and every freshman but one got his first choice for major committee assignments. Four Texans besides Eckhardt sit on the commerce com mittee, mrttee, one more than last year. This committee, currently the most sought-after assignment in Congress, oversees the oil and gas deregulation proposals dear to Texas’ heart, as well as other important business-related stuff like railroads, power regulation, health insurance, securities regulation, and consumer affairs. This year, commerce lost Texans Bob Krueger and Bob Gammage but gained Mickey Leland, Phil Gramm and Tom Loeffler. Jim Collins of Dallas is the ranking Republican on the communications subcommittee, which will be the scene of the coming battle over TV and radio deregulation, better known as the “broadcaster liberation bill” \(Obs ., Kika de la Garza has unobtrusively moved up in seniority and now ranks as numero dos on the House agriculture committee. If this year’s commerce committee reports out a health insurance bill that even Sen. Ted Kennedy and the United Auto Workers can love, part of the credit will go to Houston’s new envoy to Washington, Mickey Leland. These advocates of a full-fledged national health insurance program lobbied hard for the election of Californian Henry Waxman over Richardson committee’s sub-panel on health. Waxman won, with the difference in the election being the shift of two freshman votes, one of which was Leland’s. Joining the congressional power elite for the first time this year is Lufkin Congressinan Charlie Wilson, who is the new chairman of the appropriations panel’s subcommittee on the District of Columbia. Not exactly a plum, but then, says Charlie, “Any chairmanship is better than none at all.” The leadership is happy to place the subcommittee in what the Washington Post called Wilson’s “tight-fisted hands”since it controls the city’s budget at a time when the House District of Columbia committee is chaired by Ron Dellums of California, labeled a “free-spending liberal” by the Post’s sources. Conflict? Not to worry, says Wilson. He told the Post that, although he and Dellums may differ about how much Congress should spend on the District, “we are very good buddies.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER …144ki