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Elections to Bring Change and Stasis

November 8, 2012

 

Updated on 16 November 2012

The culmination of the lengthy 2012 election season has brought some change to Congress. A dozen new Senators and roughly 80 new Representatives will be sworn in as part of the 113th Congress in January. The winners in a handful of other races have yet to be announced.

In the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for election, many lawmakers who are strong supporters of science have been reelected.

  • Appropriators Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who currently oversee the subcommittee responsible for providing funds for the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other agencies, both return to Congress.
  • Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Jim Moran (D-VA) were reelected; they are currently the top members on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.
  • Congressman and physicist Rush Holt (D-NJ), who is one of only a handful of scientists and engineers in Congress, cruised to victory.
  • Former Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) was elected after a two-year hiatus from Congress. Foster is a physicist who previously served one term in the House.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee can expect major changes based on the election results. Ten of the current 36 committee members will not return to Congress in the new year.

  • Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Chip Cravaack (R-MN) were defeated in the general election.
  • Representatives Sandy Adams (R-FL), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), and Ben Quayle (R-AZ) did not win their primary earlier in the year.
  • Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) ran unsuccessfully for Senate.
  • Three additional committee members are retiring: Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Brad Miller (D-NC), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

In the Senate, only a third of the chamber's 100 seats were up for election. Twenty-one incumbents won reelection.

  • The Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will change in the 113th Congress. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are retiring. Hutchison is the current ranking member of the full committee. Snowe is the lead Republican on the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee.
  • Science and Space Subcommittee Chair Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) won reelection in what was predicted to be a difficult race.
  • Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) easily won her reelection.
  • Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is retiring in January.
  • Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who chairs the Environment Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, won reelection.

Despite the anticipated new faces, many aspects of the legislative branch will remain unchanged. Democrats will retain control of the Senate and Republicans will still be the majority party in the House. Moreover, the same issues facing the nation before the election, including the fiscal cliff, unfinished 2013 appropriations, and the looming debt limit, still must be addressed.

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