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Young Elephant
Sunday, October 3, 2004
Change is Coming

By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Changes in Store for Senate Leaders

Regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats win control of the Senate in November, the chamber will face significant changes in some of its most influential leadership and policy posts over the next two years.

A Democratic takeover would clearly produce the most far-reaching upheaval, extending from the post of majority leader through every committee and subcommittee chairmanship, and producing a dramatic shift in political priorities for the chamber.

But major changes will also occur if Republicans keep their current majority, starting in January with a wrenching game of musical chairs at several key committees, prompted by term limits that GOP senators imposed on themselves in the mid-1990s.

As I hammer home in my general studies American Government course, and especially in my course on the Congress, committees are key in Congress, as all legislation flows through committees-and the Chairs have remarkable power of the fate of those bills. So, regardless of the outcomes, the Senate will be a different place.

Kudos to the Republicans for sticking to their promise to term limit Chairs. Of course, the fact that Chairs often move from being the Chair of one committee to being Chair of another (e.g., Richard Shelby from Intelligence to Banking), so the new blood aspect of the term limits is lessened. Perhaps they ought to have to wait at least a year (or two years, i.e., a full Congress) before they can seek a new chair position.

GOP chairmanship changes are in store for the Appropriations, Judiciary, Commerce, Budget and possibly Intelligence committees, with ripple effects for the panels dealing with agriculture and with health and education policy. Democrats have no term limits, so, with some exceptions, Democratic chairmen would pick up where they left off when they lost control of the Senate to Republicans in the 2002 elections.

For Republicans, there will be additional chairmanship changes in 2006 and, even more important, a wholesale reshuffling of GOP leadership posts, prompted by the anticipated retirement of Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) and a domino effect on other jobs. Throughout the period, maneuvering is anticipated by GOP senators - including Sens. Rick Santorum (Pa.), John McCain (Ariz.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), George Allen (Va.) and Frist - all of whom appear to be interested in running for president in 2008.

Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign

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