Republicans chose Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to chair the House Education and the Workforce Committee, passing over moderate Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis, a congressman with far more seniority than Boehner.
Boehner previously chaired the panel''s Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations and helped lead the charge against OSHA last year when the agency issued a letter stating it could inspect the homes of telecommuters.
The Education and Workforce Committee has OSHA oversight responsibilities and would be in the forefront of any effort to nullify the controversial ergonomics regulations.
Congressman Petri was one of a handful of Republicans who last year voted against a rider that would have blocked OSHA from issuing the ergonomics standard.
There have been intense power struggles on all of the major House committees because of six-year term limits imposed on committee chairs after the GOP took control in 1995. The bad feelings created by the competition may cost the GOP some of the unity it will need to get things done in the 107th Congress.
A statement released by Petri''s office charged that he and other Republican moderates had been "purged from House chairmanships." But Petri also pledged to work with the new chairman "without rancor and with a focus on moving positive legislation forward."
"Boehner plays the games and does a lot of behind-the-scenes things," said House Republican Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who lost his bid to chair the Armed Services Committee.
The competition for chairmanships has reportedly led many contenders to raise millions of dollars to help GOP candidates.
Aside from his involvement in OSHA''s telecommuting fiasco, Boehner has until now not devoted much attention to issues of workplace safety.
In a statement released after the announcement that he would chair the committee, Boehner stated one of his goals was "giving American workers access to the tools and protections they need to meet the challenges and opportunities of the New Economy."
by James Nash