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The Benefits of Obscurity

When Congressman David Cicilline arrived in Washington, his long-shot bid for a post on the powerful Appropriations Committee proved, well, a long shot. His second choice, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, didn't work out either.

Instead, the freshman wound up on the Small Business and Foreign Affairs committees, which are not exactly plum assignments. But how about this interesting little nugget? Of 11 Democrats on the Small Business Committee, Cicilline ranks sixth in seniority.

How is the freshman already halfway up the ladder? First, as a general pricipal, less attractive committees don't attract the most senior members, limiting the competition.

In this specific case, Cicilline benefits from the presence of three other freshmen below him, including his friend Bill Keating of Massachusetts. Also, two relatively new Congressmen - Gary Peters and Bill Owens - joined the committee after him, and are lower on the totem poll.

What does it all mean? A chance to inch up toward a chairmanship, should Cicilline hold onto his seat in Congress, more quickly than you might expect.

No such luck on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where Cicilline ranks 20th of 20 Democrats - right below Bill Keating.

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