Smith is Front-runner To Chair House Science Panel

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is likely to become chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee when the new Congress convenes in January, a pair of sources said.

Of the three Republican lawmakers seeking the position, “Rep. Smith is the odds-on favorite,” a former Republican congressional staffer told SpaceNews Nov. 13.

Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) are competing against Smith for the position, but one House aide said Nov. 9 that the contest was “not even close.” Enough members of the House Republican Steering Committee, which is responsible for making committee appointments, have privately expressed a preference to give Smith the gavel, this aide said.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) is being forced to step down as House Science Committee chairman because of GOP rules that limit committee chairs to six-year terms. Those same rules will force Smith to step down as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.