Jason Chaffetz

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, on Thursday received the same three committee assignments that were held by the man he ousted from Congress — former Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Chaffetz concedes that Utah will see a loss of seniority on those committees. "Seniority matters in this town. But I also argue that if you're voting the wrong way, then seniority means nothing" — and he says Cannon had been voting the wrong way.

"Immigration, for instance, was a hot-button issue where I thought Mr. Cannon was on the wrong side of the issue, taking us in the wrong direction," said Chaffetz, who had campaigned for tough enforcement of immigration laws, while Cannon had supported reform pushed by President George W. Bush.

Chaffetz was named to the Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, and Natural Resources committees. He said he would have liked to have sought advice from Cannon about those assignments, but Chaffetz said they are not talking.

"He's refused to communicate with me, and that's his choice. And it's unfortunate. I could still use his help and perspective," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said Oversight and Government Reform had been the committee he had wanted the most, and he was ecstatic that he had received it.

"It has investigative powers over any federal program," he said. "I campaigned on the idea that Washington, D.C., is broken. .. I'd like to think I'm one who is going to reform Washington."

He also said the 2010 census has "big implications" for Utah. "That committee will play a very important role in the census and how it is taken."

Utah missed obtaining a fourth House seat in 2000 by falling just 80 people short in census counts, because LDS missionaries were not counted abroad and other census methods were used.

Chaffetz will be among few non-lawyers on the Judiciary Committee. "I did not bring up Judiciary when I had my meetings with leadership. But they proactively communicated with me and said, 'Would you be interested in it?' I said, 'Well, I'm not an attorney.' They said, 'Yes — point well taken, that's one of the benefits."'

Chaffetz added, "We're a citizen legislature. .. I do think bringing a different perspective will bode well. I would hate to see any committee in this Congress made up purely of attorneys."

The Judiciary Committee is also where most immigration issues will be debated, he said, and it was among the top issues in his campaign. The committee also oversees constitutional amendments, and the first bill he co-sponsored was an amendment to require balanced federal budgets.

Chaffetz said that Natural Resources, with its oversight of public lands and water issues, "is a critical committee of great importance to Utah."

He added, "All three committees have particular importance to Utah. They certainly are consistent with the principals that I campaigned hard on: fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense."

Chaffetz said most freshmen received only two committee assignments, but he was happy to receive three. "I can't thank leadership enough for entrusting three different committees to me, because most got two assignments," he said.

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