Last week, Members of Congress returned to Washington for the first time since the momentous mid-term elections on November 4. In addition to digesting the ramifications of those races, Senators and Representatives prepared for the new session of Congress in January by electing their leadership. In the end, members of both parties and both chambers selected a similar cast to fill their top slots. In the Senate, Republicans, who will be in the majority with at least 53 and perhaps 54 seats, will be led by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), while Democrats, in the minority for the first time in eight years, approved Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to continue on as their leader. In the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will remain as Speaker and Minority Leader respectively.
More unpredictable were contentious battles that played out this week for top committee slots. For example, while the chairmanship of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) in the House Energy & Commerce Committee was not in doubt, a fierce battle has been waged all year by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as the committee’s top Democrat. Minority Leader Pelosi was openly and actively supporting Eshoo, while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who has been at odds with Pelosi in the past, was helping Pallone. In a nail-biter final vote, the House Democrat caucus ultimately sided against Pelosi by electing the more senior Pallone.
In other notable contests, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) won the gavel of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee over the more senior Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) came out on top in a four-way battle to chair the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) was victorious in his race to lead the influential House Republican Study Committee. Also, as expected, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will continue to lead the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), in addition to continuing to lead the National Republican Campaign Committee, will also remain at the helm in FCC oversight as Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Communications & Technology Subcommittee.
Senators will decide their committee leaders after the conclusion of the outstanding Louisiana contest on December 6. It is anticipated that Senator John Thune (R-SD) will lead the Senate Commerce Committee and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: November 21, 2014