Pioneer Press (Minneapolis-St. Paul)
EDITORIAL: REP. KLINE IS READY FOR CHAIRMAN'S JOB
The chairman of a committee of the U.S. Congress has a lot of power. U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Lakeville who was first elected in 2002, will chair the Committee on Education and Labor when Republicans take over the U.S. House in January.
Kline takes over the committee as two Minnesota Democrats give up their gavels. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Chisolm, who has chaired the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, was defeated by Republican Chip Cravaak. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Detroit Lakes, easily won re-election but will no longer chair the House Agriculture Committee.
Democrats controlled the U.S. House for four years — the first two under Republican President George W. Bush and the last two under Democratic President Barack Obama. Before that, Republicans controlled the House for 12 years, first under Democratic President Bill Clinton and then under Bush. (More than four decades of Democratic control of the House preceded the Republican takeover of 1994.) The U.S. Senate will remain Democratic, although by a narrower margin than it currently holds. President Obama's first term extends for two more years. That means that Kline and the other new House Republican chairs will have to negotiate and compromise and find common ground if they want to have bills signed into law.
"The focus of Congress, and the new Republican majority, is going to be on the economy and jobs, creating conditions for the private sector to create jobs," Klinetold us. His committee deals with educational policy and budgets from kindergarten through higher education, including the No Child Left Behind law, child nutrition and programs concerning child abuse and adoption. On the labor side, the committee has jurisdiction over labor-management law, occupational safety (including mine safety), pension and health-care benefit policies and workers compensation.
The Republican takeover — which means Republican majorities and chairs in all committeees — means the House will "put to bed" the labor-backed proposal to make union organizing easier via a card checkoff recruitment system, Kline said. It means the committee will look hard at regulations and rule-making and wasteful programs, he said.
The Republican house will attempt to repeal the federal health-reform law, Kline said. Assuming Obama (and the Senate) do not go along with that plan, Kline said his committee would join in attempts to point out and eliminate specific problems, such as burdensome reporting requirements for businesses.
He said the state and local school officials believe the No Child Left Behind law, a Bush Administration initiative that focused greater attention on standards and testing, needs revision. He said the law requires students to be at grade level in reading and math in 2014, and he has been told, "If you don't do something to change it, every school in America's going to be failing."
Kline said he will also challenge the Obama Adminstration's proposed restrictions on for-profit colleges. The U.S. Department of Education, concerned about abuses in recruiting practices and the high percentage of loan defaulters among students at for-profit colleges, is proposing rules to address these concerns. Kline said he believes for-profit colleges have "proven to be very nimble" in meeting needs for retraining in the workplace, and fears the federal crackdown will "hurt access for many students."
Kline is a retired Marine Corps colonel whose career included piloting helicopters in Vietnam, directing Marine aviation forces in Somalia and serving as a personal military aide to two presidents. He will remain a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which will be chaired by U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.
Elections have consequences. Kline replaces Rep, George Miller, D-Calif., who helped draft the health care reform law, co-sponsored a large increase in federal student aid and sponsored a $2.10-per-hour increase in the federal minimum wage. Kline's challenge will be to be equally effective for his more business-friendly philosophy, and to compromise where he can to get things done. We think he's ready for the job.