Monday, November 08, 2004

Musical Chairmanships

The kerfuffle over Specter's possible chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee made me wonder how the chairmanships in general were likely to play out in the next Senate. I'm sure someone, somewhere has the real scoop on this, but I hadn't seen anything official anywhere.

The rules of the Senate Republican Conference require that (1) the party leader and assistant leader (whip) do not hold chairmanships and (2) that no senator may chair a committee for more than six years, cumulatively. It's impossible to tell from the Senate websites I consulted whether a senator holding a chairmanship on one committee has seniority on another committee over its chair, so for the purpose of this discussion I'm going to assume that even if a Senator does, he won't unseat a sitting chair with time left in his term.

It is also worth noting that all committees are not created equal. The Senate Republican Conference classifies the committees into three grades:

Super A: Appropriations, Finance, Armed Services, Foreign Relations
A: Agriculture, Banking, Commerce, Energy, Environment, Government Affairs, Judiciary, Labor
B: Aging, Budget, Indian Affairs, Intelligence, Rules, Small Business, Veterans
Affairs, Ethics

I generally assume that a Senator won't trade down. With that said, the analysis:

For the Armed Services (Warner), Banking (Shelby), Energy (Dominici), Environment (Inhofe), Finance (Grassley), Foreign Relations (Lugar), Governmental Affairs (Collins), Rules (Lott), and Small Business (Snowe) committees, the sitting chairs have time left unexpired in their terms and will most likely continue serving. I could not determine whether Voinovich's term at Ethics has expired.

Three chairs will be vacated because of term limits: Appropriations (Stevens), Commerce (McCain), and Judiciary (Hatch). Stevens is next in line at Commerce. Next in line for Appropriations is Cochran, currently Agriculture chair -- he should switch. Next in line at Judiciary is Grassley (but he will almost certainly stay at Finance) -- after him, of course, is Specter.

Two chairs were vacated by retirement: Budget (Nickles) and Indian Affairs (Campbell). Domenici (Energy), Grassley (Finance), and Gregg (Labor) are the next three in line at Budget, but all would be trading down. Domenici has also already served six years as Budget chair and I think would still be barred. If for some reason Gregg decided to move from Labor, Enzi is next in line there. The most likely next chair for Budget, then, is Allard, the fourth most senior member of the committee. At Indian Affairs, McCain is next in seniority.

The remaining four committees are keyed off changes at other committees. If Specter (Veterans Affairs) does take the Judiciary chair, Craig (Aging) is next. Both are rated as B committees, but Veterans is a standing committee and Aging is not. I don't know if it's worth the switch or not. If it is, Shelby (Banking) and Collins (Governmental Affairs) have better slots than Aging, leaving Enzi to take it over. If he somehow ends up with Labor, Smith is next. If it isn't worth the switch, Hutchison is next after him at Veterans.

Agriculture also has a remarkably complicated succession pattern. Cochran should be moving to appropriations. Lugar is next, but has two years left at Foreign Relations, which is rated higher -- he has also already served for six years as Agriculture chair and may no longer be eligible for the position. McConnell is next after Lugar, but he is majority whip and cannot chair. After him is Roberts, who still has four more years as Intelligence chair. He could switch from Intelligence -- it is both technically a higher grade committee and Roberts is from Kansas, so Agriculture chair would be a strong political move. At the same time, Intelligence has a great deal of prominence and relevance in the world today. If Roberts doesn't choose to chair Agriculture, than Chambliss, who has only been in the Senate for two years, is next in seniority. If Roberts does choose to chair Agriculture, than Hatch gets a nice landing from Judiciary over at Intelligence.

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