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Election shifts coinage oversight

Look for a new face in the House of Representatives, especially when it comes to coin and currency matters, when the new 110th Congress convenes in early January 2007.

The election results of Nov. 7 that left Republicans in turmoil have wreaked havoc on the House where Democrats are poised to take control for the first time since the 1994 election.

Senate matters were still undecided at press time. Democrats held an advantage while a Virginia race outcome was still being determined. Should the Virginia race go to the Republicans, they would hold 50 seats after suffering a five-seat loss.

If the Democrats retain the lead, Harry Reid, D-Nev., will become majority leader, and the Republicans will be left electing a new minority leader who will succeed  Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who did not seek re-election.
 
 If it breaks the other way in a recount, Republicans retain control in a tie, with Vice President Dick Cheney holding the pivotal deciding vote. The GOP has held more or less continuous control of the Senate since 1994, except for a brief period when for several weeks it went the other way, as Vermont?s Senator Jeffords walked across the aisle and changed parties.

In the House, the Democrats gained 27 seats ?only 15 were needed to change control ? and hold a 227-195 margin with 11 seats undecided. Either way, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is on her way to become the first female Speaker of the House, the most powerful congressional leadership post and second in line to succeed to the presidency.

In the Senate, the margin of control hinges on about 8,000 votes in Virginia where Jim Webb leads Sen George Allen. A close race called for the Democrats in Montana shows 2,000 votes separating Sen. Conrad Burns from challenger Jon Tester. Regardless, the top Democrat on the Senate banking committee changes, because Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., retires.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., either becomes ranking minority member or chairman, depending on the outcome. Sixth ranking GOP member of the committee, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was defeated for re-election by former governor Bob Casey. His committee assignments are not yet determined.

Two other Democrats on the banking unit were re-elected: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who won a decisive 57 percent victory, and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who won a tough battle with 53 percent of the vote to his first full term. He had succeeded Jon Corzine earlier in the year. Corzine became New Jersey governor and Menendez was appointed to the Senate seat.

Changes in the House are myriad. Banking chair Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, retired after a quarter century in congress. His vice chair, Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., a longtime member, was defeated for re-election. So was the second ranking GOP member of the committee, James A.S. Leach, R-Iowa, a former Banking committee chairman who left that position in the GOP-mandated six-years-and-out rule.

Of the 13 ranking GOP members on the Financial Services unit, Oxley, Leach, Ney (Ohio) and Ryun (Kansas) won?t be returning to the 110th Congress, which should convene the first week in January.

Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, chair of the coinage subcommittee, eked out a 52 percent majority to retain her seat; she will become ranking minority member to Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
Second ranking committee member in the 109th Congress, Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who caucuses with the Democrats, was elected to the Senate.

The old Congress should reconvene in a lame duck session shortly to consider budgetary and other matters. Some numismatic commemorative and related items may be considered.

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