Riding the wave of Republican victories in Tuesday’s mid-term election, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) joined House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) in offering reporters a glimpse of the agenda for the new 114th Congress, which includes a long-anticipated rewrite of the 1934 Communications Act.
Upton and Walden both retained their seats in a Republican electoral sweep that added at least 11 new lawmakers to the GOP House majority. The election proved to be far more dramatic in the Senate where Republicans seized control of at least seven seats held by Democrats to win control of that chamber—and with it, Congress—for the first time in eight years. As a result of Tuesday’s GOP victory, Senator John Thune (R-SD), the current ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is slated to replace Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) as committee chairman. Although Rockefeller had previously announced plans to retire at the end of the current term, his seat will be taken by former House member Shelly Capito (R-WV). Mark Pryor (D-AR), the chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, was defeated by another former House member, Tom Cotton (R-AR), and sources anticipate that the subcommittee chairmanship will go to Roger Wicker (R-MS).
Like Upton and Walden, Thune has supported efforts to overhaul the Communications Act and has said he would like to add his previously-defeated “Local Choice” proposal (which would unbundle local broadcast TV channels from cable TV packages) to that bill. Advising reporters that “we have . . . spent the last year gathering input and information to inform our work to bring the nation’s communications law into the 21st century,” Upton and Walden pledged: “over the next several months, we will take what we have learned from our hearings and white papers to update the law to boost job creation and economic growth in the innovation era.”