The election Tuesday could bring with it a number of changes to the makeup and leadership of key congressional committees with oversight of the federal workforce and management.
The most significant changes would occur if either party retook one of the chambers of Congress it currently does not control. However, Democratic hopes to retake the House have mostly faded. And while Republicans are in much closer sight of winning a majority in the Senate, many analysts predict the Democrats will mantain control there, if only just barely.
Still, retirements, committee term limits and a few close races could make for some leadership changes in key committees.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is one of the most influential committees when it comes to issues affecting the federal workforce and government management.
And it’s also the site of a number of potential leadership changes this year.
Chairman Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is retiring at the end of the year, leaving open the top spot on the committee.
Tom Carper (D-Del.), who now chairs the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, is next in line for the gavel based on seniority, according to K&L Gates, a Washington, D.C., law firm, which published a guide to how congressional committees would be affected by the election.
Also retiring is Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the longtime chairman of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee.
Meanwhile, Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member, is barred by term limits from continuing to serve as the committee’s top Republican if Democrats retain control of the Senate, according to Niels Lesniewski, a Roll Call staff writer. In that scenario, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is slated to become the ranking member.
In addition, two members of the committee have been locked in tight re-election races.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairs the Contracting Oversight Committee, where she has played a large role in congressional investigations into wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent days, she has opened up a modest lead over Republican challenger Todd Akin and Real Clear Politics now lists Missouri as “leans Democratic.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the ranking member of the financial management subcommittee, is slightly behind in the polls, trailing Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, by single digits, according to recent polls.
It’s harder to pin down lines of succession at the subcommittee level with so many changes in the mix, Lesniewski said.
“These are all on … who goes where at the full committee level as to where the cards fall at the subcommittees,” he said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.
House Oversight and Government Reform
The leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — are both expected to cruise to re-election.
However, the Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management Subcommittee will see changes across the board — but not because of the election. Subcommittee Chairman Todd Platts (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) are both retiring at the end of the year.
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the Federal Workforce Subcommittee, and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), the ranking member, are both running for re- election.
Armed Services Committees
Analysts do not expect many drastic leadership changes on either the Senate or House Armed Services Committees.
Neither Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) nor John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee’s chairman and ranking member respectively, are up for re-election this year. However, McCain is term-limited as the ranking member, according to the K&L Gates analysis.
Still, there are a few possible and, in some cases, definite shifts in some subcommittee assignments.
McCaskill’s continued leadership of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee is contingent upon winning re-election to her Missouri Senate seat. Jim Webb (D-Va.), the chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee, has announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Prospects for minimal leadership changes are similar on the House Armed Services Committee. Both Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) are expected to win re-election.
Assuming Republicans retain control of the House, as most political analysts now project, the biggest change in leadership on the House Appropriations Committee will be the vacancy created by the top Democrat on the committee, Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who is retiring.
According to K&L Gates’ analysis, that puts Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) or Nita Lowey (D- N.Y.), two of the higher-ranking Democrats on the committee, in the running to replace Dicks.
Lesniewski predicted an internal fight within the Democratic caucus over Dicks’ successor.
On the Senate side, Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is not up for re-election. Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss), is also not up for re-election; he is, however, restricted by term limits from continuing to serve as ranking member — though not as chairman, if the Republicans were to win a Senate majority.
The House and Senate Budget Committees could be in for some changes.
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, now chairs the House Budget Committee, a position that would be vacated if he and Mitt Romney win Tuesday. On the Senate side, committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is retiring, leaving Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who served on the unsuccessful deficit-cutting supercommittee last fall, next in line for the chairmanship.
John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is projected to win re-election. However, Mica, who has been at the forefront of the investigation into wasteful spending at the General Services Administration, is term-limited as the committee chairman. POLITICO reported in September that Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is next in line to serve in the top leadership spot.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.