Four-term Rep. Greg Laughlin, D-Tex., Monday traded his affiliation with the Democratic Party for a coveted seat on the Ways and Means Committee and membership in the majority Republican Party, becoming the second conservative House Democrat to change parties this year.
Laughlin, 53, made official at a news conference in Victoria, Texas, what had been rumored since he and three other conservatives resigned from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee two weeks ago in a policy dispute over clean water legislation.
His conversion increases the number of Republicans in the House to 232. There are 202 Democrats and one independent.
In April, two-term Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia became the first GOP convert of the year in the House. Two senators, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, have switched since Republicans won control of Congress in last November’s elections.
“In view of the changed dynamics of the House of Representatives after the 1994 elections, my constituency requires me to change my affiliation from the Democratic to the Republican Party if I am to best represent the conservative principles upon which I ran when you elected me,” Laughlin told constituents at a news conference.
Noting his party’s increasing advantage, Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said, “Democrats are voting with their feet - they’re either retiring and going home or switching parties.”
Rep. Martin Frost, DCCC chairman, called on Laughlin to resign and run for the seat as Republican in a special election and to repay more than $79,000 he has received from the campaign committee since 1986.
To win Laughlin over, GOP leaders added a seat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and gave it to him, expanding the Republican majority on the panel to 22 to 15.