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When the 107th Congress convenes in January, regulatory agencies will face not only a new boss in the White House, but also new chairs of several key oversight committees in the House. Republican-instituted terms limits on committee chairmanships will force Henry Hyde, R-Ill., to step down as head of the Judiciary Committee and Jim Leach, R-Iowa, to give up the Banking and Financial Services Committee, while Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley Jr., R-Va., is retiring. Their replacements may not be formally named until January, but lawyers, lobbyists, and staffers say that F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., is all but assured the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee; that W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, R-La., has the edge for heading the Commerce Committee; and that Marge Roukema, R-N.J., has a good shot at Banking. Sensenbrenner, a conservative Republican from Menomonee Falls, Wis., and a 1968 University of Wisconsin Law School graduate, has sat on the Judiciary Committee since 1979. Those who know him describe him as intelligent and fair, although something of a curmudgeon. Through a spokeswoman, Sensenbrenner declined to comment for this article. As Judiciary chairman, he will control the agenda of the 37-member committee, which has oversight responsibility for a long list of agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Previously, Sensenbrenner served as chairman of the Science Committee, and if his oversight of NASA is any indication, the agencies under Judiciary can expect a stern taskmaster. “Oversight is tough,” he told Space.com in March. “When you are on the receiving end of oversight, it’s never very pleasant.” His selection is playing fairly well in the intellectual property community, which approves of his science background and his service on the Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee. “His interest in science and technology probably will cross over to high-tech issues in IP,” says Michael Remington, a Washington, D.C.-based partner at Philadelphia’s Drinker, Biddle & Reath who was chief counsel of the IP subcommittee from 1983 to 1991 and, like Sensenbrenner, hails from Wisconsin. “He’ll be a good chairman.” Agrees Herbert Wamsley of the Intellectual Property Owner’s Association: “We believe he has a good understanding of IP.” As for the PTO, the agency is reassured that Sensenbrenner voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment to increase funding for the agency in fiscal year 2001 by nearly $134 million. A legislative fix allowing the PTO to spend all the money it collects in user fees is a top priority for the IP community as well as the agency itself. LISTEN TO THE MUSIC One area where Sensenbrenner has differed from conventional IP law is in music licensing. In July, he fired off a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky protesting a WTO decision on radio and television royalties. Sensenbrenner argued that bars (of which his district has many), restaurants, and small businesses should not have to pay copyright fees for playing over-the-air radio and TV broadcasts in their establishments. Another area of interest to the Judiciary Committee is civil rights, where Sensenbrenner demonstrated a rare streak of liberalism. In the mid-1980s, he joined with Democrats to defend the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the interpretation of the act by Ronald Reagan’s Department of Justice was contrary to the legislative intent of Congress in passing the law. On constitutional issues, Sensenbrenner co-sponsored a bill in 1999 to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which imposes term limits on the presidency. When it comes to antitrust, though, Sensenbrenner is something of a tabula rasa. Traditionally one of the committee’s most important issues, antitrust was so dear to outgoing Chairman Hyde that he kept it under his thumb at the committee level rather than delegating it to a subcommittee. Hyde embraced the notion that appropriate antitrust enforcement helps rather than hinders the free market, and officials at the DOJ and the FTC are likely to miss him — at least a little. “Hyde was, at bottom, quite supportive of responsible enforcement,” says Arnold & Porter partner William Baer, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition from 1995 to 1999. “He worked with the agencies and supported them when he thought they were doing the right thing, but he didn’t hesitate to criticize them when he thought they were going too far.” As for Sensenbrenner, he has little reputation one way or the other among antitrust lawyers, and Albert Foer of the American Antitrust Institute speculates that the new chairman “might not take the same interest [as Hyde] and would create a subcommittee.” While such a move would create another layer in the legislative process, Foer says it might be preferable because it would allow members to develop more expertise. Howard Coble, R-N.C., will continue to serve as chairman of the IP subcommittee, but Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bill McCollum, R-Fla., lost a Senate bid, and Charles Canady, R-Fla., head of the Constitution Subcommittee, retired. Their replacements have not been determined. Overall, the Judiciary Committee has a reputation for being fractious and difficult to handle, and some wonder how Sensenbrenner will fare when it comes to building a consensus with Democratic colleagues. “Having worked with the Sensenbrenner office on a variety of issues, he’s not as partisan as some folks think, and he’s very, very bright,” says an aide to Senate Judiciary Committee member Herbert Kohl, D-Wis. “We think, given the chance, he’ll be capable of moving the committee productively.” COMMERCE CAUSE The fight for the chairmanship of the powerful Commerce Committee has gotten the most media attention, with Tauzin and Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, both gunning for the job. The prevailing wisdom is that Tauzin has the edge to chair the committee, which has broad jurisdiction and serves as the primary overseer of the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and others. In recent years, telecommunications has been the committee’s most high-profile issue, and Tauzin and Oxley share very similar philosophies. “Both have a deregulatory approach, both believe in opening the international market, and both tend to believe that in the advanced services area, some restrictions should be lifted,” says Scott Blake Harris of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, former head of the FCC’s International Bureau. The main difference is personality — the low-key Oxley vs. the more gregarious, shoot-from-the-hip Tauzin. They also split over funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with Tauzin endorsing a more generous budget than Oxley, who would like to see it scaled back. In general, Tauzin has been a strong ally for broadcasters and the National Association of Broadcasters. “He supports NAB in every way, shape, and form,” says Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project, who adds that he has “great respect for Tauzin’s talents as a legislator, whether I agree with him or not.” Both Tauzin and Oxley are Baby Bell backers, in contrast to the retiring chairman, Thomas Bliley, who was a supporter of long-distance providers. And based on Tauzin’s sometimes blistering criticism of the FCC as chairman of the Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, he may prove to be tougher than Bliley on the agencies he supervises. Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson says that “Billy is confident he has done everything necessary to assure he’ll be the next chairman of the Commerce Committee. He has played a pivotal role in guaranteeing the Republican majority.” An Oxley spokeswoman declines to comment on the record. But the prize that the pair are competing for may not be quite as grand as it was under Bliley, says a Republican House staffer. “There have been efforts for as long as I’ve been here by the leadership to squeeze jurisdiction away from the Commerce Committee to others,” says the staffer, noting that 60 percent of all legislation passes through the committee. “But there is a very good possibility that the leadership is going to announce they are shifting some [areas] away.” One scenario involves transferring the committee’s securities and insurance oversight to the Banking and Financial Services Committee — perhaps as part of a package deal that would give Oxley the chairmanship of that committee as a consolation prize for losing Commerce to Tauzin. Oxley currently chairs the Commerce Subcommittee on Finance and Hazardous Materials, which handles such matters. But combining financial services oversight in the House draws mixed reviews from industry representatives. One financial services lobbyist says that against the backdrop of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which broke down barriers between banking, securities, and insurance, there is a certain logic to combining oversight into one body, as is the case in the Senate. But a former SEC official wonders whether it’s a good idea, given the rather cozy relationship that banks enjoy with their overseers in Treasury, compared to the SEC’s more antagonistic approach to its industry. “The SEC has preserved the tension in the system, where the regulator has not become the captive of the regulatees,” he says. “In the medium- to long-term, consolidation would pose a threat to the [SEC's] free market philosophy and market disclosure that may not be healthy to capital markets.” And while Oxley wins praise from financial services industry trade groups, awarding him the chairmanship could cause major problems with other members. Foremost among them is Roukema, who has been serving on the Banking and Financial Services Committee for 20 years and, based on seniority, is in line to become chair — the first Republican woman to head a major committee. Passing her over might play poorly indeed, although the 71-year-old pro-choice moderate is not especially popular with more conservative House leaders. Another member who has announced an interest in the job is Richard Baker, R-La. Head of the Capital Markets, Securities, and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, Baker is best-known for his crusade to tighten regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Roukema says in an interview that she is “certainly looking forward” to becoming chairwoman of the committee, which she describes as an “essential component of keeping the economy going.” Her priorities, she says, are continuing to look into issues surrounding money laundering, a review of the deposit insurance system, and overseeing regulations being proposed by the financial regulatory agencies to implement the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. One way to resolve the chairmanship battles for Banking and Commerce is if Roukema is given a high-level political appointment, perhaps at Treasury or Education, should George W. Bush win the presidency. While aware of the speculation, Roukema says she has heard nothing directly and would take it “under advisement when and if it happens.”

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