Smith named committee chair
By DANA BASH
November 2, 1999
Web posted at: 6:56 p.m. EST (2356 GMT)
Washington (CNN) - One day after returning to the Republican Party, New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith was rewarded by his GOP colleagues Tuesday with the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Smith left the Republican Party with a fiery speech on the Senate floor in July but announced his return Monday, saying after just 111 days as an independent, he realized he could best push his conservative ideas as a member of the GOP.
The two-term senator said he had been talking about rejoining the GOP for weeks, but admitted his decision took on urgency when the death of Sen. John Chafee left an opening at the helm of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., had also been pursuing the position, but told reporters he decided to support Smith.
Environmental groups have expressed concern about Smith taking over the committee because of his policies, particularly on removing rules on forcing companies to pay for cleaning up toxic waste areas.
"This could signal an end to the laws Americans rely on to keep the air that they breathe clean and the water they drink pure," said Allen Mattison of the Sierra Club. Smith "has shown a disregard for the environment while Sen. Chafee was a true champion."