The Thinker: Rich Galen


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What "Winning the Senate" Means

Rich Galen

Thursday October 23, 2014


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  • We've heard all the chatter about the chances of the GOP taking control of the U.S. Senate in the midterm elections a week from Tuesday.

  • But what, if that should happen, would that mean, in practice?

  • First of all, assuming Republicans end up with a net six seats (either through knocking off six Democrats in the elections, getting a few sitting Democrats to switch sides, or both) they will get to organize the Senate.

  • That means that a Republican - probably Mitch McConnell of Kentucky - will be the Majority Leader. The Majority Leader controls the Senate legislative calendar - he decides what bills and resolutions will come to the floor for a vote and when.

  • It will mean that Republicans will have at least one more member on every Committee and Subcommittee than Democrats.

  • Also, it means that a Republicans will chair every Committee and Subcommittee.

  • That, in turn, means that the staff of every Committee and Subcommittee will have more Republicans than Democrats which is a big deal when it comes to the amount of firepower the GOP can put behind investigations and legislation.

  • And, because there are 100 Senators that have to do the same amount of work as 435 House Members (only one bill goes to the President), Senate staffers often have a great deal of power and responsibility.

  • Reporter Donna Cassata of the Associated Press went through Committee by Committee and looked at who might chair each in a piece published on Wednesday.

  • Armed Services
    Current Chairman: Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan)
    New Chairman: Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)

  • Appropriations
    Current Chairman: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland)
    New Chairman: Sen. That Cochran (R-Mississipppi)

  • Agriculture
    Current Chairman: Sen. Debbie Stabanow (D-Michigan)
    New Chairman: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) assuming he wins re-election. If Roberts loses, then the New Chairman could be Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas)

  • Budget
    Current Chairman: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington)
    New Chairman: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

  • Commerce
    Current Chairman: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia)
    New Chairman: Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota)

  • Energy
    Current Chairman: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana)
    New Chairman: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

  • Environment
    Current Chairman: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California)
    New Chairman: Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)

  • Finance
    Current Chairman: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)
    New Chairman: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

  • Foreign Relations
    Current Chairman: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)
    New Chairman: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)

  • Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
    Current Chairman: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
    New Chairman: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)

  • Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs
    Current Chairman: Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware)
    New Chairman: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin)

  • Judiciary
    Current Chairman: Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vermont)
    New Chairman: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

  • John Thune taking over Senate Commerce would have sway over what elements of the outdated Telecommunications act of 1996 might be replaced by a bill that reflects smart phones, tablets, and nearly ubiquitous broadband access to the Internet that did not exist 18 years ago.

  • John McCain - with his well-known military history - will likely have a different view of projecting American military power than Carl Levin of Michigan.

  • Conservative Southern Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi would likely have a different set of Appropriations priorities than his predecessor Liberal Maryland Senator Barbara Milkulski.

  • Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski knows a great deal about drilling in ANWR - the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge - and might well put that high on the list of legislation to come out of the Energy Committee.

  • Does anyone doubt that the Committee on Environment might have a different slant being chaired by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe than it did under California Senator Barbara Boxer?

  • The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson will likely spend a good deal of time digging into what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

  • And so on.

  • So, what does winning control of the Senate mean? Remember the mantra that Democrats giddily repeated during every appearance on every cable show after the re-election of 2012:

  • "Elections have consequences."

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the AP story on potential GOP committee chairs.

    Also a very strange license plate Mullfoto.

    -- END --

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