Inhofe Says Fellow Republicans May Decide Committee Issue

Thursday, November 23rd 2006, 11:22 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ It may be up to his fellow Republicans to decide whether Sen. Jim Inhofe or his colleague will be the ranking GOP member on the committee overseeing environmental issues, Inhofe said.

Inhofe has chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works since 2003, but after the midterm elections swept Democrats into control, Inhofe will lose that position to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Inhofe assumed he automatically would become the top Republican, but another longtime member, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., has said he wants the position.

Warner, who has been on the committee since 1987 and is the senior Republican on the panel, said he would submit his name for election to the Republican members of the committee.

The ``rules and precedents recognize the seniority of membership on the committee as the principal factor in making such decisions,'' Warner said.

But Inhofe, R-Okla., told The Oklahoman's Washington bureau that the rule on whether Warner has the right to take his place is unclear and may have to be decided by all Senate Republicans.

Inhofe said that, under rules adopted when Republicans gained control of the Senate in 1995, there isn't a precedent for what Warner is doing. He said the rules are designed to keep senior members from ``bumping'' others out of positions and that ``there's no precedent for bumping.''

Inhofe said he had spoken with the nine Republican senators expected to be on the committee next year and was confident they would support him. But he said he was unsure what the Republican conference would do.

Inhofe has used the position as chairman of the committee to speak out strongly against studies showing man-made greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming. Inhofe has called global warming a ``hoax'' and has made speeches and public statements blasting what he calls flawed science that points to a climate change in the world that could have disastrous results.

Besides environmental issues, the panel also deals with transportation and Inhofe helped write the highway bill in 2005 that directed hundreds of millions of dollars to Oklahoma.

Inhofe said he doesn't think Warner's interest in getting the top Republican job on the committee is related to global warming or any other issue.

Inhofe and Warner have served together on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Armed Services Committee for years, and Inhofe said he considers Warner a good friend.

``He's without any leadership positions,'' Inhofe said. ``I'd probably do the same thing if I were in his position.''