Contractors eye post-election musical chairs on Senate panel

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has been facing a tight reelection bid. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has been facing a tight reelection bid. Jeff Roberson/AP

The Senate’s ad hoc panel on contracting oversight, generator of headlines about waste and corruption since its creation in 2009, could be in for some changes after the Nov. 6 election.

The only chairman in the panel’s history, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has been facing a tight reelection bid (though latest Missouri polls have her ahead of Republican Rep. Todd Akin by six points). Observers from industry, congressional insiders and agency contracting officers are watching closely.

The situation is fluid for multiple reasons, observers say. Even if McCaskill is reelected, she may decide to focus on her more-permanent assignment chairing the Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee. The January retirement of Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the full Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, could set in motion a shuffling of chairmen.

A likely successor is Tom Carper, D-Del., who would give up his chairmanship of the Financial Management subcommittee chairmanship. Carper’s rise flows from the retirement of Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and the likelihood that Carl Levin, D-Mich., would retain his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.

Next in seniority on the Contracting Oversight Subcommittee is Mark Pryor, D-Ark. But he already chairs Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, and observers have speculated he would focus on rising to chair the Select Ethics Committee.

That leaves Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who himself is locked in a tight reelection race.

A final complication, as noted by Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, is that Senate rules limit the total number of subcommittees as the caucuses vote on membership. That means the ultimate fate of the temporary committee on contract oversight could hinge on the views of the Senate’s leadership and on the party makeup of the chamber -- regardless of which party wins majority control.

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