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Changes in the Senate Following Midterm Elections

With a net gain of at least seven seats in the Senate and the possibility of gaining another seat during the December runoff election in Louisiana, Republicans are expected to make several key Senate committee appointments in January, including:  

  • Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC for Chairman of the Intelligence Committee (current Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA)
  • Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN for Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee (current Sen. Robert Menendez D-NJ)
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Al for Chairman of the Budget Committee (current Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray D-WA)
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT for Chairman of the Finance Committee (current Sen. Ron Wyden D-OR)
  • Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK for Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (SECWP)(current Chairwoman is Sen. Barbara Boxer D-CA)
  • Sen. John McCain, R-AZ for Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) from the current Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI

The appointment of John McCain to SASC Chairman, in particular, has the potential to affect several defense related procurement programs and budget appropriations. Senator McCain has been supportive of increased US military involvement in both Syria and Ukraine, while simultaneously scrutinizing perceived budgetary waste by the Pentagon: 

“McCain is a vocal advocate for the use of the US military forces across the globe — for offensive operations, deterrent shows of force and humanitarian work. He also is a leading proponent of ending sequestration and inflating annual Pentagon budgets. But he also oftentimes is the loudest critic of the military on everything from executing operations to crafting budgets to managing weapon programs.” - John T. Bennett, 2014 

Senator McCain has been a staunch critic of the Littoral Combat Ship program, voiced concern over the performance and cost of the F-35 program, and has been a major proponent for ending the United Launch Alliance’s monopoly over the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program by allowing Space-X to compete after receiving Air Force certification.

The appointment of Senator James Inhofe to the Environment and Public Works Committee also has the potential to institute a variety of significant changes. Senator Inhofe chaired the committee previously from 2003 to 2008, and was a vocal critic of global climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency (Crittenden, 2014).

SASC member Senator Kay Hagan D-NC, Chairman of the SASC Strategic Forces subcommittee Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), and Senate Appropriations Committee member Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) lost their reelection bids. Senator Udall is among the most vocal detractors of the NSA’s metadata collection programs, and has advocated for greater transparency within the intelligence community. Senator Udall has strong support from civil liberties organizations, and his loss in the November elections is expected to weaken any potential future intelligence reform measures (Scola, 2014).



Changes in the House

Republicans further solidified their majority in the House with a net gain of 13 seats, bringing the total to 243 seats in the House of Representatives. Despite this 13 seat gain, the 114th Congress will include 28 new republican representatives, reflecting republicans who lost their primaries or retired (Peterson, 2014).



Obama Agenda Lame Duck Session

In a Wednesday news conference with reporters, President Obama outlined his legislative agenda for the lame duck session between November 12th and mid-December. The President stressed the necessity for the 113th Congress to update the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AMUF) to include relevant provisions toward combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Landler and Sanger, 2014). President Obama indicated that, as commander in chief, he has the authority to conduct the strikes in Syria and Iraq but Congressional involvement would underscore national unity. Furthermore, President Obama indicated he is willing to work with republicans on a host of issues following the election including reforming the corporate tax code and trade agreements. 


Sources

  1. Sen. Inhofe, denier of human role in climate change, likely to lead environment committee, Tom Hamburger, 2014.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inhofe-an-epa-foe-likely-to-lead-senate-environment-committee/2014/11/05/d0b4221e-64f4-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html 
  2. Here are the top candidates for Senate chairmanships under the GOP majority, Josh Hicks, 2014. 
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/11/05/what-does-the-gop-senate-takeover-mean-for-committee-leadership/ 
  3. Five Republicans Who Will Dominate on Foreign Policy in the Next Congress, John Hudson, 2014. 
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/11/05/five_republicans_who_will_dominate_on_foreign_policy_in_the_next_congress 
  4. McCain could shake up U.S. defense in powerful new Senate role, Andrea Shalal and David Alexander, 2014. 
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/06/us-usa-elections-idUSKBN0IO0C620141106 
  5. Obama Seeks Update to Military Force Rules, Paul McLeary, 2014.
    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141105/DEFREG02/311050034/Obama-Seeks-Update-Military-Force-Rules 
  6. Obama Fills Up Lame Duck Agenda, John T. Bennett, 2014.
    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141105/DEFREG02/311050036/Obama-Fills-Up-Lame-Duck-Agenda 
  7. Will the New Congress Change the Tax Code?, Dennis K. Berman, 2014.
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/will-the-new-congress-change-the-tax-code-1415148701?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories 
  8. Midterm Elections 2014: Republicans Extend House Majority, Kristina Peterson, 2014.
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/midterm-elections-2014-republicans-set-to-expand-house-majority-in-midterm-election-1415118386?KEYWORDS=house 
  9. Obama Open to Striking Deals With GOP Congress, Jeffrey Sparshott and Felicia Schwartz, 2014.
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/obama-acknowledges-republicans-had-a-good-night-1415218832?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories 
  10. With Udall’s defeat, NSA reformers lose an ally on the inside, Nancy Scola, 2014.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/11/05/with-udalls-defeat-nsa-reformers-lose-an-ally-on-the-inside/
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