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Despite the intense battle for the White House and control of Congress, the status quo basically remains in Washington, DC. In the House of Representatives, Republicans still hold a majority with at least 232 seats. The Democratic caucus will be at least 191 members strong, with a strong likelihood that Democrats will add a few more seats to that number. In the Senate, Democrats outperformed, gaining seats in Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts while also defending 22 of 23 seats the caucus held before Election Day. Despite this strong win, the net impact of Senate control is negligible as Democrats are still reasonably short of the 60 votes necessary for a filibuster-proof majority.
House Party and Committee Leadership
On the Republican side, the coming weeks will bring about leadership and Committee Chairman elections, as well as new Member orientations. Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) will remain the 61st Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his deputy, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will retain their leadership positions in the Republican caucus. Current Conference Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is expected to leave that position to become Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which creates a race between Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), currently the Republican Policy Committee Chairman, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
Further down the leadership ballot, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL) are running to be vice chairwoman of the Conference, and Congressman James Lankford (R-OK) is currently unopposed to head the Republican Policy Committee. Finally, we expect a three-way race for Conference Secretary (the last rung on the leadership ladder) among Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA). The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman slot is widely expected to be filled by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR). Also, while not a traditional leadership race, it is important to note that Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA) and Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) are facing off to determine who will chair the large, influential and conservative-oriented Republican Study Committee.
Due to caucus imposed term limits and retirements, Republicans will need to replace seven Committee Chairmanships. Arguably, the most influential and potentially interesting of these to watch is the House Rules Committee, where current NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has expressed strong interest. However, House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) may contest Congressman Sessions for that role. If Hastings gets the nod, the Natural Resources gavel likely goes to Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT).
Due to term limits, current Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is widely expected to be replaced by Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Lamar Smith is likely to keep a gavel by moving to the House Science and Technology Committee where he will likely replace Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). Congressman Smith may see a challenge from Congressman Jim Senenbrenner (R-WI) for the Science Committee gavel. The Financial Services Committee, currently Chaired by Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is likely, as noted earlier, to be handed over to Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). The House Homeland Security Committee will feature a race between Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI), Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL). House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen (R-FL) will hand over her gavel to either Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) or Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). Finally, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, currently held by John Mica (R-FL), is expected to be replaced by Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is also term limited, but it is expected he will receive a waiver to remain in that position should he ask for one.
On the Democratic side, caucus elections have been postponed until November 29, creating speculation that there may be significant leadership changes. We will keep clients abreast of these developments as they occur. While Democrats do not have the same self-imposed term limits as Republicans, they do have retirements, which impact the landscape. Appropriations Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) is expected to be replaced by either Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) or Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), a long time presence in Financial Services Committee leadership, is likely to be succeeded by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). Finally, on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Congressman Bob Filner’s (D-CA) retirement opens the door for Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) to become Ranking Member.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) defeated fellow California Congressman Howard Berman in a member vs. member battle created as a result of redistricting. Congressman Berman had been the Ranking Member on House Foreign Affairs setting up a race to replace him.
We expect that Berman’s opponent, Brad Sherman will seek this slot and may be challenged by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Senate Committee and Party Leadership
Like the House, the coming weeks will feature Leadership elections and new Member orientations; however, there are few Committee Chairman races to note. Leadership positions on both the Democratic and Republican sides should remain largely the same in the 112th Congress. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will retain his post as Majority Leader, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) will be the Majority Whip and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will continue as Policy Chair.
The Republican leadership in the Senate will continue to feature Senator Mitch McConnell (RKY) as Minority Leader. Due to the retirement of Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Minority Whip position will be open, and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) has declared his candidacy for it. A Senator to keep an eye on is current Conference Chairman, Senator John Thune (R-SD). Should he decide to run for Whip or another leadership role, it could set off a scramble for his vacated post among current Policy Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Vice Chairman of the Conference Roy Blunt (R-MO). Assuming a move by current NRSC Chairman Jon Cornyn to a different leadership post, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) are potential candidates to fill that slot.
Democrats do not have term limit rules impacting Committee leadership positions, but they do have a couple of retirements to note. Retiring Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) will be vacating his post, with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Veterans Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) the next in line. With Senator Murray leaving her post at the Veterans Affairs Committee, the next likely Senator for that spot is Sherrod Brown (D-OH). At Energy and Natural Resources, Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is expected to be replaced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). With the retirement of Senator Joe Lieberman, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairmanship will likely go to Senator Tom Carper (D-DE).
In addition to the known chairmanship shakeups, there are some conditional moves that may be of some consequence. It has been suggested that John Kerry may seek to be appointed Secretary of State, should Hillary Clinton decide to step down. In this case, Senator Barbara Boxer (DCA) could trade her Environment and Public Works (EPW) gavel for the Foreign Relationship Committee Chairmanship, currently held by Senator Kerry. Under that scenario the EPW slot would likely go to Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). If Boxer does not make a move to Foreign Relations, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would take over for John Kerry.
Like House Republicans, Senate Republicans also have a term limit policy and key retirements that impact committee leadership. First, we expect Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to replace Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee. Next, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is next in line to become Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, replacing current Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), who is term limited. The Ranking Member spot on the Appropriations Committee will open because of term limit rules, and Banking Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) is expected to forgo another term as the Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee be the Republican lead on Appropriations. Under that scenario, Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho would be next in line for the Banking Committee.
At Armed Services, Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) is term limited, and this position is likely filled by current EPW Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is next in line to replace Inhofe at EPW. Due to the retirement of Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) becomes the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Current Health Education Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) is term limited and the next in line seniority-wise is Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). With the retirement of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the Small Business Committee Ranking Member slot either goes to Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) or Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY). Finally, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is term limited as Ranking Member of the Veterans Committee and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is expected to take over that post.