KENNER, La. (AP) _ When the Republicans seized control of the U.S. House, Rep. W.J. ``Billy'' Tauzin, a conservative Democrat from Louisiana's oil-rich bayou country, became a liaison of sorts between the two parties.

Last winter, he helped form The Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats whose purpose was to develop positions on legislation that might bridge the gap between majority Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Tauzin apparently tired of that role _ the eight-term congressman is expected to announce a switch to the Republican Party this weekend, congressional sources said Friday.

Tauzin would join four other Democratic lawmakers who have made the move to the GOP since last fall's election, two in the House and two more in the Senate. Several lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had talked with them in recent days of his intentions to change parties.

``I can confirm that following a great deal of soul-searching, Billy has in fact reached a final decision concerning party affiliation,'' said Ken Johnson, a spokesman, who declined to say what the announcement would be.

Johnson added, ``Late Friday afternoon, Billy briefed all of our staff members both here in Washington and in our four district offices of his decision. Everyone was extremely supportive.''

A move by Tauzin would leave the House Republicans with 233 seats and Democrats with 201. The House has one independent.

Tauzin, 52, is considered a possible candidate for the Senate next year, when Democratic Sen. J. Bennett Johnston will step down, although he may ultimately decide to seek a ninth term to the House from his district in southeastern Louisiana.

A news conference is scheduled for Sunday in Louisiana, at which other Republican members of the Louisiana delegation are expected to join Tauzin.

On Monday, according to congressional officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Republican Chairman Haley Barbour and Rep. Bob Livingston, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the senior member of the state's delegation, are expected to join Tauzin at a second news conference in the Capitol.

Tauzin flirted with switching parties last winter, going so far as to authorize an aide to discuss logistical details of an announcement with Republicans.

He stopped short of making the move, and said at the time he would wait several months to see whether the Democratic leadership would become more accommodating toward conservatives within the party. At the same time, he formed The Coalition.

In June, Tauzin and three other Democrats quit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political fund-raising arm of the party in the House. And on Friday, he resigned from The Coalition, a clear signal that his future did not lie with the Democratic Party.

Others members of Congress who have switched from the Democratic to Republican Party this year include Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Reps. Nathan Deal of Georgia and Greg Laughlin of Texas.