Senate Democrats select committee leaders

Senate Democrats announced their anticipated committee assignments Tuesday, rewarding veterans with plum assignments, placing newcomers with specific policy expertise on panels to show off their knowledge, and tabbing more vulnerable members to serve on more high-profile rostrums.

Most panels will have a ratio of 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans, the ratio agreed to in the 108th Congress, which was the last time there was a 51-49 Senate majority. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will meet later with GOP leaders to finalize those ratios.

The most coveted spots were for the Appropriations and Finance committees, with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island regaining the Appropriations seat he lost in 2003 when the GOP gained the majority.

Reid gave up his Appropriations seat, leaving two open spots filled by Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who was an appropriator for 15 years before retiring in 2000, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Subcommittee chairmanships will be decided "in due time," said a spokeswoman for incoming Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., although it appears the Energy and Water Subcommittee helm being vacated by Reid will go to Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, currently ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is expected to replace Dorgan at Interior and Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota to take her old spot on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.

Current Democratic Conference Secretary Debbie Stabenow of Michigan gave up her leadership spot, but was rewarded with a coveted Finance seat. The Democratic Steering Committee also added Sens. Ken Salazar of Colorado and Maria Cantwell of Washington to the committee.

The new Democratic members selected for other major panels include:

  • Agriculture: The additions of Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are likely to intensify the support for traditional farm programs. Klobuchar is likely to be a strong supporter of commodity subsidies and the sugar program. Casey likely will join Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont as an advocate for continuing the Milk Income Loss Contract Program, which benefits smaller dairy producers.
  • Armed Services: Defense-heavy Virginia received a second seat with Sen.-elect Jim Webb's selection to the panel. A decorated Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary, Webb will serve with current Armed Services Chairman John Warner of Virginia. Webb's hefty military credentials might make him one of the most powerful and outspoken junior members of the committee. Also named were Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Sen.-elect Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
  • Banking: Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii will become a member along with Casey, Brown and Sen.-elect Jon Tester of Montana. One notable freshman left off the panel is Sen.-elect Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the current ranking member of the House Financial Services Financial Institutions Subcommittee, where he has been a strong supporter of the credit union industry and critic of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders.
  • Commerce: Klobuchar and McCaskill will join the panel along with Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware, a business-friendly moderate.
  • Energy and Natural Resources: Democrats added two rural, populist freshmen -- Sanders and Tester -- along with Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
  • Environment and Public Works: Sens.-elect Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Sanders, Klobuchar and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island join this committee. Whitehouse defeated Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate whose swing vote helped Democrats defeat GOP environmental legislation this Congress.
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Sanders replaces his predecessor, independent Sen. James Jeffords, and is expected to be a reliable Democratic vote. Sanders, the first member of Congress to organize bus trips to Canada for seniors to buy cheaper prescription drugs, has made the cost of medication his key issue. Brown, the other freshman to join the panel, also sponsored bus trips to Canada and is currently the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee's ranking member. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who has been a critic of higher education costs, was also added to the panel.
  • Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Lautenberg left the panel after he was rebuffed in his chairmanship bid, losing out to Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana will likely play a major role on any oversight or overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Obama joins the panel, as well as McCaskill and Tester, who are likely to be advocates for preserving homeland security funding for more rural areas.
  • Judiciary: Incoming Judiciary Chairman Leahy will have two new reliable liberal members -- Cardin and Whitehouse, the latter of whom served as Rhode Island attorney general. That will provide Leahy a little more breathing room to move his agenda, especially since Feinstein and Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin were two moderates Republicans tried to pick off to help move legislation when they were in the majority.
Peter Cohn, Jerry Hagstrom, Megan Scully, Darren Goode and Jessica Brady contributed to this story.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.