Merkley will serve on Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Carla Axtman

From E&E's Greenwire (subscription required):

Freshman Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico will be the newest members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the 111th Congress, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said today.

Adding Merkley and Udall suggests that committee Democrats plan to hold a three-seat committee majority over Republicans in the 111th Congress, though Boxer cautioned that committee organization remains unofficial pending an agreement among Senate leaders.

Democrats had a 10-9 advantage last year on the EPW Committee, a narrow edge that forced the majority to walk a delicate line when crafting legislation. Adding two more seats could pave the way for easier movement in committee on key environmental legislative items sought by President-elect Barack Obama.

Marc Morano, the committee's Republican spokesman, said organizational issues have not been settled as Senate leaders await the outcome of a legal dispute in the Minnesota Senate race between Democratic challenger Al Franken and incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.

"There has been no agreement yet between Republican and Democratic leadership on the ratios of committees," Morano said.

Republicans must replace two former EPW Committee members -- Virginia's John Warner and Idaho's Larry Craig -- who have retired.

Merkley defeated two-term Republican Sen. Gordon Smith last November. Udall, a former congressman, beat former GOP Rep. Steve Pearce.

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