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Nick Joe Rahall II (born May 20, 1949), an Americanmarker politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing since 1977 ( map). He is the Dean of the West Virginiamarker delegation in the House of Representatives. The district includes much of the southern portion of the state, including Huntingtonmarker, Bluefieldmarker and Beckleymarker. He is currently the chairman of the House Resources Committee.

Biography

Rahall was born in Beckleymarker of Lebanesemarker descent. His father was the wealthy owner of many businesses, including many radio stations throughout the state. Rahall graduated in 1971 from Duke Universitymarker. Following his graduation, he attended graduate school at the George Washington Universitymarker. He then went to work for Senator Robert Byrd (who is from nearby Sophiamarker) as a staff member.

In Congress

After 4th District Congressman Ken Hechler stepped down to run for governor in 1976, Rahall narrowly won a 10-way Democratic primary, which was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district. At the age of 27, he was one of the youngest members of Congress. He has been reelected 14 times with virtually no Republican opposition aside from 1988 and 1990.He faced stiff primary competition in 1990, Hechler challenged Rahall for the nomination that year, urging voters to elect him so they would have "a congressman with high moral standards again." Hechler's slogan was a swipe at Rahall's 1988 arrest in California for drunk driving and the lawsuit filed against him by a Las Vegas casino for $60,000 of unpaid gambling debts in 1984. Only Harley Staggers, who represented the now-defunct 2nd District from 1949 to 1981, has represented West Virginia in the House as long as Rahall. The district was renumbered the 3rd after the 1990 census, when West Virginia's declining population cost it a congressional seat.

Rahall has been the Chairman of the Resources Committee since the Democrats won control of the House in 2007. He is also the second-most senior Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is a moderate-to-liberal Democrat with a slight populist streak.

Rahall has worked on every federal highway bill since coming to Congress. He was also a key architect in the formulation of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (known as TEA 21). The bill established the Rahall Transportation Institute (RTI), a consortium of five Southern West Virginia colleges, housed at Marshall Universitymarker. Recently, Rahall helped RTI win designation as a National Maritime Enhancement Institute to enable the school to compete for federal grants related to research regarding inland maritime activities. This is one of only seven so-named universities in the nation, further advancing RTI’s mission of “Building Jobs through Transportation” for West Virginia.

He also took on the cause of greater protections for citizens of West Virginia's coalfields by twice spearheading legislation to extend the Abandoned Mine Reclamation program, which provides funds to combat health, safety and environmental threats that are connected to old mine sites. In the course of this effort, provisions were included to allow these funds to be used for public water supply systems in the region, as well as to help finance health care for retired coal miners. Rahall additionally gained enactment of provisions to provide land owners with protections from subsidence caused by underground coal mining.

In other areas related to mining and minerals, Rahall is the sponsor of legislation to promote the re-mining of lands previously mined for coal with the Coalbed Methane Development Program, the reauthorization of the Mining and Mineral Resources Research Institute program, the Rahall/Byrd amendment to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization prohibiting the financing of foreign mining ventures, and the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992.

Rahall is the author of the 1978 legislation that established the New River Gorge National Rivermarker as a unit of the National Park System. Ten years later, he gained enactment of legislation to designate the Gauley River National Recreation Areamarker and the Bluestone National Scenic River, in the process creating the largest network of federally protected rivers in the eastern United States. Rahall legislation also established the National Coal Heritage Area in 11 southern West Virginia counties.

Numerous State and national organizations have recognized Rahall for his work on environmental issues, he is the recipient of the 1997 Citizen’s Coal Council award, the 1996 "Keeper of the Flame Award" presented in 1996 by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the 1990 "Friend of the Earth Award" for his work on protecting the coalfield environment, the Sierra Club’s 1988 "Seneca Award" for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship, American River's 1988 "River Conservation Award,” and the Ansel Adams Award from the Wilderness Society in 2004.

Rahall has faced several primary challenges from Hechler, and in the 1980s several challenges in general elections funded in part by some Jewish-American groups that expressed concern on Rahall's somewhat pro-Palestinian leanings on Middle Eastern issues. However, he holds one of the safest Democratic districts in the country (Democrats frequently win by margins of 90-10). Speculation on his political future centers on a possible run for the Senate whenever Byrd's seat opens up and on the continued population loss of his district, which will likely result in some degree of redistricting in the state after the 2010 census.

His sister Tanya Rahall is the owner of PR and lobbying firm Rahall Consulting which has such clients as the country of Qatarmarker, which paid her as much as $15,000 a month. Following the contract that Rahall Consulting signed with Qatar Nick Rahall presented congressional resolutions which praised Qatar's "democratic reform."

Rahall received attention when he, along with other Lebanese American lawmakers, expressed concern with a bipartisan resolution supporting Israelmarker in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict without adding language urging restraint against civilian targets, saying, "I'm just sick in the stomach, to put it mildly." Rahall assisted in drafting a bipartisan alternative resolution that urged "all parties to protect innocent life and civilian infrastructure." [49148]

On October 3, 2008 Rep. Rahall voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program believing that the enumerated powers grant congress the authority to "purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen its financial sector."

Other

Rahall is a regular customer at Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, West Virginiamarker, where they have a hot dog named after him called the "Rahall Red Hot Weenie", which consists of hot mustard, sauerkraut, fried onions, green peppers, poblano and jalapeños. He was featured on a Food Network episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where he was seen eating at the restaurant and talking with the show's host.

References

  1. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll681.xml


Committee assignments



External links






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