Okay, so no one wants to look at committee assignments. I get it. It’s boring. But you kind of have to understand the power arrangements on the committees to know what is likely to happen in the Senate. Anyway, Joe Lieberman made his farewell speech in the Senate today. No one cared. One former head of the DLC is gone, but another former head of the DLC will take over his chair of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee. That would be Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. I’m sure he will keep us all safe. I hope he likes Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin because they’ll be joining his committee. So, Canadians, beware! No unauthorized entry!
Mazie Hirono got a slot on the Judiciary Committee, which probably makes for a few firsts. First Hawaiian. First Japanese native. First Japanese-American. First Asian. First Buddhist. First non-theist.
Ron Wyden is taking over the chair of the Energy Committee from Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. Sen. Wyden is a very good senator and will do a bang-up job. Mazie Hirono and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico will join him on the panel.
We have three new members of the powerful Appropriations Committee: Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Congratulations to them and their constituents.
The Armed Services Committee got three fairly conservative new members in Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Independent Angus King of Maine.
People are giddy that Elizabeth Warren landed a slot on the Banking Committee, but they should ponder for a moment the overall effect of Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp joining up with her. West Virginia and North Dakota are very red states, and their votes outweigh Warren’s. I doubt the banks are displeased with the overall change in the ideological makeup of the committee.
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut landed a spot on the Commerce Committee, which remains otherwise unchanged.
Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Michael Bennet of Colorado landed plum assignments on the Finance Committee. For Sen. Bennet, this was a reward for agreeing to take over the DSCC from Patty Murray. Good luck to him. Progressives should be thrilled about having Sen. Brown on Finance. He’s basically replacing Kent Conrad.
Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tim Kaine of Virginia are going on the Foreign Relations Committee. Rumor has it that Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey will chair the committee if John Kerry joins the cabinet. That could complicate efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and it won’t help ease tensions with Iran. Of course, Barbara Boxer has right of first refusal, but most people think she will prefer to keep her chairmanship of the Environment & Public Works Committee.
You might not think the HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee could get any more liberal. You would be wrong. Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Chris Murphy are joining its ranks, while Michael Bennet is leaving.
Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Angus King of Maine will sit on Diane Feinstein’s Intelligence Committee.
Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine, and Angus King will sit on a Budget Committee newly-run by outgoing DSCC chairwoman, Patty Murray of Washington. She is very powerful now. Paul Ryan better adjust his jock.
Angus King is also the only new member of Chuck Schumer’s powerful Rules Committee. He replaces Ben Nelson.
Here’s something cool. Rep. Bernie Sanders is getting his first gavel. He will chair the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. It seems a fitting post for a Socialist, no? Richard Blumenthal and Mazie Hirono will join him.
Maria Cantwell of Washington is also getting her first gavel. She will chair the Indian Affairs Committee. Heidi Heitkamp is the only new member.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is also the only new member of Mary Landrieu’s Small Business Committee.
Sen. Heitkamp and Sen. Donnelly will also serve on Debbie Stabenow’s Agriculture Committee.
Obviously, the biggest news is the new chairmen: Bill Nelson (Aging), Murray (Budget), Wyden (Energy), Carper (Homeland Security), Sanders (Veteran’s Affairs), and Cantwell (Indian Affairs).
It’s also significant that women will chair seven of the twenty-one Senate Committees.
For progressives, the biggest news is that Sanders will chair Vet’s, Murray will chair Budget, Sherrod Brown will serve on Finance, Elizabeth Warren will serve on Banking, Martin Heinrich will serve on Intelligence, and Mazie Hirono will serve on the Judiciary. Also, that Tammy Baldwin will serve at all.