Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for the lame-duck session on Wednesday. The grueling election cycle resulted in the new Republican majority in the Senate and double-digit seat gains for the GOP in the House. So one of the first orders of business for Republicans was to begin the selection of colleagues who will lead both chambers, as well as hold the coveted gavels as committee chairs, in next year’s 114th Congress.
In the House, Republicans already had the majority before the elections, and Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, was selected by the House Republican Caucus this week for a third term. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, was also picked to stay on in his current role.
House committee chair assignments may be nailed down by as early as next week, and 11 chairmanships are up for grabs, including the powerful Ways and Means, and Budget, Committees. These chairmanships will be decided by the Republican Steering Committee, which includes leadership team members and Speaker Boehner.
With Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-MI, retiring, candidates to take the helm of the tax panel include Representatives Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Kevin Brady, R-TX. Ryan, a former Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012 and prime contender for president in 2016, describes chairing the committee as his “dream job” and is the clear front-runner although Brady has more seniority.
If Ryan wins his bid to chair Ways and Means, then there will be an opening in helming the House Budget Committee with Tom Price, R-GA, becoming his likely successor.
Representative Frank Lucas, R-OK, dropped his bid late Thursday to challenge the to-the-point Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, for the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, which will play a pivotal role in the future of terrorism risk insurance.
Leadership of the Senate will change entirely based on the new Republican majority. And, as expected, Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, was elected unanimously as Majority Leader-elect by the Senate Republican Conference during their leadership elections. Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-NV, faced emotional opposition, but ultimately won reelection to another term as head of the Democratic Caucus as the new Minority Leader.
Key Senate Committee chairmanships up for grabs include Budget, where Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, is the current ranking member and most likely to hold the gavel. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, is the ranking member of the Finance Committee, which oversees key multifamily issues and Republican priorities like tax reform, and is heir apparent for the chairmanship.
The Senate is unlikely to select top members of the individual committees until either later this year or January due to the fact that it is unknown how large the Republican majority will be in the chamber.