CHANGES COMING TO KEY COMMITTEES Created by on 11/19/2012
Election Day may have produced no changes in which party controls the House and Senate but several of the committees that are responsible for moving bills through the legislative process will go through a significant reshuffling due to failed bids for other offices, retirements, and internal rules that prohibit Republicans from serving more than six years as the chair or ranking (e.g. most senior) member of any panel. Senate Democrats are expected to announce their roster of Committee chairs after the Thanksgiving recess. It is not clear when Senate Republicans will finalize the ranking member positions or when House committee chairs will be named.
Although nothing is official yet, the following key committees who have jurisdiction over funding and policies related to the federal science agencies are likely to see new faces in leadership roles, including:
Senate Budget Committee – Patty Murray (D-WA) is almost certain to take over the chairmanship of this panel that sets overall funding levels and fiscal policy. Murray is a strong champion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and served on the “Supercommittee” that was established by the Budget Control Act. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a fiscal conservative who is the current ranking member will continue in that role.
Senate Appropriations Committee – Daniel Inouye (D-HI) returns as the committee chair but Richard Shelby (AL) is expected to move up to the top Republican slot, replacing Thad Cochran (MS) who has hit the six year limit. It is not clear if Senator Shelby will also retain his role as the ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for NIH. There is a rumor that Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) could become the top Republican on the LHHS Subcommittee if Shelby steps aside. Both Shelby and Alexander are NIH supporters.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee – In related news, Senator Alexander could also become the top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee. This is the committee that has jurisdiction over regulatory and policy issues involving NIH. If Alexander serves as the ranking member of both the HELP Committee and the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, it will create a parallel leadership structure as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is expected to remain as the chairman of the Senate HELP Committee and the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee.
House Appropriations Committee – Hal Rogers (R-KY) will continue as the panel chairman but will be joined by a new ranking member following the retirement of Norm Dicks (D-WA). Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Nita Lowy (D-NY) are vying to replace Dicks at the top Democrat on the committee. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) appears to be in the lead for the chairmanship of the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee. However, Representative Rodney Alexander (R-LA) also remains in the running. The current chairman, Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT), lost his Senate bid and will not be returning to Congress next year. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the current ranking member on the LHHS Subcommittee has not yet announced her plans.
House Science Committee – This is one of the panels that will see some of the biggest changes as a result of Election Day defeats. Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Todd Akin (R-MO), and Judy Biggert (R-IL) all lost their bids for office. A total of ten current members (approximately one-third) are not returning to the panel in January. In addition, the current Chairman, Ralph Hall (R-TX) is term-limited. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) are seeking to replace him. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is expected to continue as the ranking member.
Complete rosters of the House and Senate committees may not be finalized until early January.