Two Colorado lawmakers land spots on powerful House Rules Committee

Colorado adds to its unprecedented influence in Congress this session with the appointment Friday of two Democrats from the state’s delegation, Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, to the House Committee on Rules, which rarely gets mentioned without the adjective “powerful” describing it. The, er, powerful 13-member committee decides whether, how and when bills come up for debate on the House floor, and acts as a traffic cop for legislation.

It’s not unusual for large states to have more than one member on the Rules Committee — New York, California and Florida all have multiple representatives on the current committee — but two members from Colorado means the state will have serious sway on the national agenda.

Polis, a freshman congressman representing the 2nd District, already stepped into a powerful position rare for a newcomer when he landed a seat on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which assigns Democrats to other committees. Even before he was sworn in earlier this week, Polis exerted influence for the state’s delegation, helping name Rep. John Salazar to the House Appropriations Committee, where he’ll sit at the table when federal spending gets decided.

Perlmutter, elected in November to a second term representing the 7th District, serves on the key House Financial Services Committee, where he’s had a hand constructing the financial bailout and has carved out a role pushing for energy efficiency.

Here’s what Polis had to say about the Rules Committee appointment:

“I am honored today to be appointed to one of the most influential committees in the House along with my colleague Congressman Perlmutter. Together, we can help shape all areas of legislation for the 111th Congress and voice Colorado’s progressive ideas across the nation.”

And here’s Perlmutter’s statement:

“I am honored to be appointed to this coveted committee. This position will give me the opportunity to work hard for the priorities and values of the hardworking people of Colorado ‘s 7th Congressional District, our state and our nation. Through my service on this committee, I can act on every issue that matters to the people of Colorado . I look forward to serving on this committee to move forward an agenda that will help ease the squeeze of the current economic downturn, put Americans back to work, spur new infrastructure development particularly in transportation and energy efficiency, and keep our nation safe and secure.”

Denver Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, the dean of the Colorado delegation, kept a key House Energy and Commerce Committee post this week and serves as chief deputy whip in the House leadership. She lauded Polis and Perlmutter’s appointment in a statement:

“I congratulate both Ed and Jared for being selected to serve on the House Rules Committee, an important House committee that will help set the agenda for the 111th Congress. The Speaker of the House clearly recognizes the talent in Colorado and values the contributions of the West. I look forward to working with my colleagues Ed and Jared in the 111th Congress to pass a robust agenda for Coloradoans and Americans nationwide.”

The history of the House Rules Committee includes an account of the Cannon Revolt of 1910 and events leading to the “great paradox of the Rules Committee.” (OK, here’s that last: Paradoxically, “while it originally was created to develop a set of standing rules and uniform order of business for the House, its principal role now is to devise special rules to manage floor debate on legislation outside of those standing rules.”)

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Ernest Luning

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