As Democrats scrambled while the new Republican majority eliminated three committees and cut Democratic seats on others, Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, apparently managed to hang onto his committee assignments.

House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., notified Orton that the party's steering committee is recommending that he be reappointed to the Budget Committee and the Banking and Financial Services Committee.Some doubt had existed because senior Democrats had been trying to push into positions after Republicans eliminated three committees - District of Columbia, Merchant Marine and Fisheries, and Post Office and Civil Service. And the number of Democratic seats on others dropped when it lost the majority.

Also, Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn. - who had been chairman of the Budget Committee but now will be its ranking minority member - had been openly critical of Orton and his maverick voting for more than a year.

Sabo had said publicly that Orton should never have been appointed to his committee because Orton often votes with Republicans on key issues - such as opposing President Clinton's economic stimulus package.

Other Democrats also had been punished for stepping out of line - including Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., who ran against Gephardt for Democratic leader. Gephardt removed Rose as the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

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Still, Orton retained the Budget Committee seat - and will be the 14th highest ranking Democrat out of 28. On the banking committee, Orton will rank 11th out of 26 Democrats.

Republicans earlier finished their assignments. Rep.-elect Enid Waldholtz, R-Utah, became the first Republican freshman to be appointed to the House Rules Committee in 80 years.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, is the second-ranking Republican on the Resources Committee, where he will also be the new chairman of a subcommittee overseeing national parks and public lands.

He is also the sixth-ranking Republican on the National Security Committee, and fourth-ranking Republican on the Select Intelligence Committee.

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