House Committee on Appropriations: Earmark reform likely, elimination doubtful
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), now serving his 16th term in Congress, is poised (but not certain) to take the gavel as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Despite Republican calls for a complete elimination of all earmarks and Rep. Lewis' public support of an extension of the earmark ban, it is doubtful they will be successful in their efforts. Even if such measures were to pass the House they would likely get hung up in the Senate, making it more probable that we'll simply see reforms of the earmarking process instead. Lewis and other GOP lawmakers have said that they are committed to returning overall spending to 2008 levels, but with both the House and Senate now more partisan than ever, the only certainty is gridlock.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Seeking a health care repeal, agency oversight
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is considered the leading candidate to takeover as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee should the Steering Committee reject Rep. Joe Barton's waiver request. The Republican's top legislative priority will be to give tremendous scrutiny to the implementation of the recently enacted health care legislation. It is also expected that Upton will depend heavily on committee oversight in investigating independent agencies.
House Committee on Financial Services: Scrutiny of Fannie, Freddie and Dodd-Frank
Following the Republican takeover of the House, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is now in position to claim chairmanship of the Committee on Financial Services. With Bachus as chairman we expect an increase in oversight hearings, particularly on the past practices and reshaping of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as a review of certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—specifically the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
House Committee on Ways and Means: Tax reform, cuts take center stage
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) is now poised to take over the chairmanship of the powerful tax-writing Committee on Ways and Means. Camp has advocated for “fundamental” tax reform that will lower rates and shape “a fairer, simpler more understandable tax code." Furthermore, the Michigan congressman favors a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for all levels of income. If Congress is unable to come to agreement on the Bush tax cuts during the lame-duck session, it will place Camp front and center in the debate beginning January 2011.
House Committee on Armed Services: A closer look at Afghanistan
With the House switching over to Republican control, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) is first in line to take over as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Republicans likely will press President Obama and his Administration to loosen the July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Additionally, we can expect to see the committee use congressional hearings as a means to obtain clarification from the Pentagon regarding the administration's war strategy. Interestingly, the current chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), lost his reelection bid.