It's like deja vu all over again for Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. In 1986, House Speaker Jim Wright told the press that if Owens were elected, he would get his dream assignment on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Someone else got it instead.
In 1988, Wright again promised that Owens would absolutely, positively get that dream assignment if he were re-elected. But someone else did again.Then in 1990, new House Speaker Tom Foley again told the press that if Owens were re-elected, he would at last get that long-promised committee assignment. Guess what? Right. And Owens isn't exactly happy about it, either.
But he did get a nice consolation prize: appointment to the prestigious House Select Committee on Intelligence, which receives top-secretbriefings from intelligence agencies. It goes with his other assignments to committees on foreign affairs, interior and aging.
Owens said he didn't get his appointment to the Energy and Commerce Committee because too many other western Democrats are already on it. He also outlined negotiations with leaders that led to his seat on the Intelligence Committee instead.
He said he was called one morning by House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt who wanted Owens to serve on the Intelligence Committee - especially now with the Persian Gulf crisis, and Owens' background in the Middle East from his Foreign Affairs assignment.
"I said I wasn't interested and wanted the original deal," Owens said. After all, the Energy and Commerce Committee oversees environmental law - which is a high priority for Owens - and heavily affects such Utah industries as Kennecott and Geneva Steel.
Owens said he was called back later, this time by House Speaker Foley.
"He said he had a lot of problems with the Energy and Commerce Committee, and that our region already has three (Democrats), and some regions only had one. No other region had more than two," Owens said. So Foley asked him again to take the Intelligence position instead.
Owens said he would accept it "grudgingly" if necessary to help out Foley, but he still really wanted to push for the seat.
He did, but ended up losing by two votes to a Southerner in the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee - and ended up not holding Foley to his original promise and taking the Intelligence seat instead.
"But the speaker promised me that the next seat is mine," Owens said. He laughed and added, "I've heard that before somewhere."