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Ehrlich benefits from shift in House GOP leadership; Md. lawmaker gets boost in assignment, party rank


WASHINGTON -- A tumultuous time for House Republicans has helped catapult Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Baltimore County into a prominent position in the party's leadership and a favorable committee assignment.

"I'm doing my little victory dance," an ebullient Ehrlich, who will be sworn in today for a third term, said in an interview last night. "It's been a good two weeks."

Ehrlich, 41, was promoted from a junior position under House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, to become one of 10 senior deputy whips, with responsibility for counting and corraling Republican votes. A new chief deputy whip, ranking just below DeLay, will be named to succeed Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who is to become House speaker today.

Republican aides say Ehrlich is particularly involved in helping DeLay and his staff hone the party's public messages.

"Mr. Ehrlich is a valuable part of this whip team," a House Republican leadership aide said last night. "He's a key ingredient."

Ehrlich said he has also received word that he will be given a seat on the House Commerce Committee, which oversees many issues affecting energy and utility companies, the telecommunications industry and trade.

Late last fall, Ehrlich had been told that he would serve on the National Security Committee, which handles defense issues dear to many current and retired military personnel and the defense subcontractors based in his district. His 2nd District seat represents Harford County and parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

Instead, Ehrlich will serve on the commerce panel, which he had sought, in part, because it is a boon for lawmakers interested in raising hefty sums of campaign money. Ehrlich has been weighing a bid for the Senate seat of Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year, and the committee assignment will enable the Republican to tap a commercial donor base with deep pockets.

Both moves were, in some sense, prompted by the withdrawal of Speaker-designate Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana over pending news reports of his sexual indiscretions. Since Hastert knew Ehrlich from his activities as a junior whip, the Marylander suddenly had a sympathetic ear in the speaker's office.

Ehrlich, who is relinquishing his seat on the House Banking Committee, will continue to serve on the House Budget Committee.

Pub Date: 1/06/99

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