Senate leadership in the 114th Congress will change significantly as a result of the Republican gains in the November mid-term elections. Although committee chairs and ranking members have not yet been officially announced, the following changes are widely anticipated.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will have a new chair. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) is expected to replace Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) as the top Republican on the committee due to his seniority. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will likely remain as the most senior Democrat. Mikulski has been a vocal supporter of federal research from her current position as chair of the full committee and the subcommittee that oversees several science agencies.
Senator John Thune (R-SD) is expected to chair the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Thune currently serves as Ranking Member of the Committee. With the retirement of Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is expected to become Ranking Member next year. Nelson serves as chair of the Science and Space Subcommittee, a position he has used to advance policy issues at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Rockefeller’s departure from Congress after thirty years will leave a void in the science policy community, as the Senator has been a solid supporter of efforts to invest in research and has sponsored legislation to reauthorize research and education programs at the National Science Foundation.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will likely lead the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy. Murkowski has a reputation as a more moderate member of her party and has led a number of bipartisan legislative initiatives. The future ranking member is harder to predict, as the Democrat who currently reigns over the committee—Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)—is facing a tight runoff election on 6 December. If Landrieu is not reelected, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) might succeed her as the top Democrat on the panel.
The Environment and Public Works Committee will likely return to a familiar leadership line up: Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Boxer is currently chair. Inhofe previously served as ranking member until 2013 and chaired the committee when Republicans controlled the Senate in the mid-2000s. The duo has clashed over a number of environmental issues, including climate change.
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