Leadership in the 112th House

I took a preliminary look at Senate leadership in the upcoming Congress yesterday. However, that’s the minor leagues compared to what’s going to happen in the backrooms of the House between now and January. In addition to a new majority, you have a Democratic leadership in transition, Republicans looking to move up, and a whole host of committee turnover created by term limits, retirements, and losses. Like before, I encourage you to suggest Congressmen and Congresswomen that you’d like to see in leadership, or think will be in leadership, for either party.


The biggest story on the left side of the aisle is that leadership will have to contract–the loss of the majority means that the Democrats will have only a floor leader rather than a floor leader and Speaker like they had the past four years.

Minority Leader:There is neither a clear field nor a clear favorite here. All discussions, however, have to begin with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and whether she plans to serve in the minority or pack up and let the Democrats rebuild under a new face. You can’t fault her for making either choice, but I tend to think that she’ll step aside. If it’s not Pelosi, the default choice is Steny Hoyer, who did nothing wrong as Majority Leader but may not be the preferred choice of the progressive wing of the party. John Larsen or Jim Clyburn could conceivably challenge Hoyer from the left, or a younger up-and-comer like Debbie Wasserman Schultz could make a bid if the Democrats really want to turn the page on the past. I’m sure most of you have opinions on this, and I encourage you to discuss your preferred leader for the Dems.

Minority Whip: This position will be settled after the Democrats pick a floor leader, as it may be used as a negotiating tactic (giving Whip to a moderate, for example, in exchange for a progressive Speaker.) However, if incumbent Jim Clyburn wants the job, he’ll probably keep it. Deputy Whip John Lewis is also a natural successor to Clyburn should the incumbent step aside or pursue the Minority Leader role.

Caucus Chairman: Again, a potential bargaining chip, but also John Larsen’s if he wants it again. Larsen will be easier to dislodge than Clyburn, however, as Democrats will want to keep a CBC member in leadership. If Larsen moves up or steps aside, Xavier Becerra would be a strong candidate for this job.

Caucus Vice Chairman: At risk of sounding like a broken record, this is Becerra’s in case he decides to move up, or in case Dianne Feinstein retires and he chooses to focus on a Senate run. This job would be wide open in Becerra’s absence, and might be a good place for a younger Democrat to be brought into leadership.

DCCC Chair: The incumbent is Chris Van Hollen, whom many Democrats really like and see as a future party leader. However, the Democrats just lost 64 seats under Van Hollen’s watch, and while many of those losses were inevitable, he may get some blame for the wave being as large as it was. If the party decides to go in a different direction, you could see the ambitious Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Joe Crowley here, or perhaps Jared Polis, another young Democrat tapped as a future leader.

Elsewhere, George Miller and Rosa DeLauro look set to return as Steering and Policy Chairs, and Mike Capuano will still be Organization Chair. The party’s whip team is likely to be smaller this time to reflect the reduced size of the caucus, but John Lewis will be back as Senior Chief Deputy Whip unless he moves up to Minority Whip in which case Ed Pastor, who appears to be next among the whips in seniority, would succeed Lewis.


Speaker of the House: John Boehner. It doesn’t look like he’ll get a Tea Party-backed challenger, but even if he did, he’d be a lock anyway.

Majority Leader: Eric Cantor. The future Speaker waits in the wings as Boehner’s top lieutenant.

Majority Whip: Kevin McCarthy, the current Chief Deputy Whip, looks set for a promotion. Pete Sessions had floated the idea of running for this position, and would have had strong support among the freshmen class, but it appears that he will stay at the NRCC, where he did excellent work in the last Congress.

Conference Chair: Now things get fun. Mike Pence is out, choosing to focus on his run for governor of Indiana. The first candidate to declare was Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party Queen, who would be highly polarizing and a likely drag on the Republican leadership. Jeb Hensarling of Texas is also running for the position, and he appears to be consolidating establishment support. Bachmann will have support from the Tea Party bloc, which included many of this year’s freshmen, but Hensarling is conservative enough that he should be OK.

Policy Committee Chair: It is unclear as to whether the wonky, uninspiring Thad McCotter will seek another term, but even if he does, this will be a competitive race. Tom Price, chair of the Republican Study Committee (the right-wing answer to the Progressive Caucus), is interested in running and would likely have the support of the RSC members, and Connie Mack is also testing the waters. Price is probably the favorite, as the freshmen elected this year look to be quite conservative.

The other Republican positions look to be settled: Cathy McMorris Rogers will remain as Conference Vice Chair, John Carter will return as Conference Secretary, and Pete Sessions, as indicated above, will serve a second term as NRCC Chair.


Now this is the fun part! All 22 committees will have a new chair and ranking member, as Republicans and Democrats will switch roles. Several chairmen have also retired or lost re-election, so there are chances for members to move up. Finally, John Boehner plans to enforce a strict term-limits rule: no Republican who has served as chair OR ranking member for six years (3 terms) may chair that committee again. This is different from the Senate, where years spent as RM do not count against term limits.

Agriculture: Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson. Tim Holden is currently Vice Chair; I don’t know if he has an agreement in place with Peterson to take over at some point.

Appropriations: Current RM Jerry Lewis and second-ranked Bill Young are both ineligible due to term limits, so Hal Rogers gets to be King of Pork for the next two years. Norm Dicks will take over for Dave Obey on the Democratic side.

Armed Services: Buck McKeon takes over the reins, while the top four Democrats on the committee all lost: Ike Skelton, John Spratt, Gene Taylor, and Solomon Ortiz. That leaves Silvestre Reyes with a decision: stay at Intelligence or move to Armed Services. If Reyes stays put, Adam Smith would jump from 7th to Ranking Member.

Budget: Paul Ryan will be chairman, and perhaps the most watched member of the House. This fosters many questions: Will he leave to run for Herb Kohl’s Senate seat? Will Democrats make him a top target? Will Scott Walker ensure that does not happen during redistricting? Also, I don’t know how Allyson Schwartz gained seniority on this committee so quickly (how did she leapfrog Marcy Kaptur?), but she’s the top Democrat now that John Spratt is out.

Education and Labor: John Kline of Minnesota is the surprise chairman here, while George Miller of California will be Ranking Member.

Energy and Commerce: Phew–Joe Barton is term limited and won’t be chairman. Ralph Hall, who ranks on Science and Technology, is next in line here but may either stay put or not chair a committee at all because, well, he’s about 150 years old. Fred Upton waits in the wings if Hall’s a no-go. Henry Waxman will return to the minority and have to wait at least two more years to try and pass his cap-and-trade bill again.

Finance: Spencer Bachus and Barney Frank. It won’t be dull!

Foreign Affairs: Cuban-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will be an intriguing chairwoman, while Howard Berman will be the RM.

Homeland Security: Time for some fun again. The top Republican, Peter King, is term limited and not happy about it. The next two Republicans in line–Lamar Smith and Dan Lungren–are the top dogs on Judiciary and Administration. Homeland Security is a very intriguing committee, but it does not appear to be as powerful as many of the others, so they may stay put. If that’s the case, it’s Chairman Mike Rogers (the Alabama one), and Ranking Member Bennie Thompson of neighboring Mississippi.

Judiciary: More of the unknown. Lamar Smith has first dibs at the chairmanship, and can choose either this or Homeland Security. If he’d rather fight terrorists than pick judges, Howard Coble is next in line, but fifth-ranked Bob Goodlatte is Vice Ranking Member. Does Goodlatte have some sort of arrangement with Coble and Elton Gallegy that he will become chairman if Smith leaves? Or will seniority win out? Oh yeah, John Conyers will be the Democratic leader, with Jerry Nadler in reserve if he steps aside due to age.

Natural Resources: Doc Hastings and Nick Rahall. Next.

Oversight and Government Reform: Well, I bet you know the answer to this one. Darrell Issa will indeed be chairman, and will make life hell for anyone and everyone he chooses to investigate. Ed Towns will shuffle over to the RM spot.

Rules: I bet you never saw this one coming. There are only four Republicans on this committee, and David Drier is term-limited, Lincoln Diaz-Balart is retired, and Pete Sessions may be too busy at the NRCC to chair this crucial committee as well. That seems to leave only……Virginia Foxx. Yes, that Virginia Foxx. Louise Slaughter, of the Slaughter Solution, will rank during at least two years of Foxx Trotting.

Science and Technology: This committee is in transition, perhaps on both sides. Chairman Bart Gordon has retired, giving Jerry Costello a chance to be Ranking Member. Ralph Hall can choose between this and Energy and Commerce, which may be more attractive to a Texan. If he leaves, there’s Global Warming-ranker Jim Sensenbrenner (who’s done a little bit of everything during his long tenure), who has two years of eligibility left–he chaired this for four years before moving to Oversight.  Dana Rohrabacher would be next if Sensey passes it up.

Small Business: Sam Graves gets the gavel for the first time, while Nydia Velazquez gives it up.

Standards of Official Conduct: Also known as Ethics, this committee will be led by Jo Bonner, with Zoe Lofgren as RM. Bonner will hold considerable sway over the futures of Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, who will come to trial soon.

Transportation: Chairman Jim Oberstar narrowly lost his seat, and next-in-line Nick Rahall is unlikely to leave Natural Resources, so Peter DeFazio is likely to be the top Democrat. John Mica will chair.

Veterans’ Affairs: Vietnam vet Cliff Stearns is the top dog now, and Bob Filner ranks for the minority.

Ways and Means: Dave Camp gets the unenviable job of being the Republicans’ top tax-writer, while Sander Levin will continue to lead the Democrats unless Charles Rangel’s name is cleared during his ethics trial.

Intelligence: With Pete Hoekstra out of the way, it’s the Elton Gallegy show, while Democrat Silvestre Reyes can stay here or become the RM on Armed Services, making Alcee Hastings the top Democrat.

Global Warming: Jim Sensenbrenner again! He can go to SciTech if he likes, or stay here with cap-and-trade author Ed Markey. Candice Miller would be chairwoman if Sensey leaves, assuming John Boehner even keeps this committee, which was Nancy Pelosi’s idea. It may become a subcommittee of Energy, Natural Resources, or Science, any of which would make sense.

Whew! Thanks for reading, and have fun sharing your thoughts!

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18 thoughts on “Leadership in the 112th House”

  1. I’m happy to see you’ve put this up, but I don’t think the term limits are as much a concern on the Republican side as you suggest. They can waive them if they wish, so some of the people you suggest are out might not be. And I really doubt anyone would opt to chair a select committee over, say, Armed Services.

  2. I’d like to see Becerra run for leader. It’s a long shot, but he’s young, exciting, and just enough of an insider to not scare anyone in the caucus. The contrast between him and the dull and boring Boehner would be huge. If not Becerra, I’d want DWS or CVH. If we have to lose Pelosi, I want someone relatively new, not a retread like Hoyer who’ll just give in to every Republican demand.

  3. Steering – Minority Leader appoints members. If it’s Hoyer (or probably anyone other than Pelosi), Miller won’t be chair.

    Appropriations – Lewis will seek a waiver but Rogers also wants it. Chaka Fattah has threatened to challenge Dicks.

    Budget – Has unique rules on membership that can impact seniority. There are term limits, I believe members can only serve three consecutive terms (four for chair/ranking, but Spratt got waivers) and most of the members have to be from Ways and Means and Appropriations.

    Ed and Labor – Don’t think Kline is much of a surprise since he became ranking after McKeon took over Armed Services when McHugh resigned.

    Energy and Commerce – Regardless of seniority, Hall will not chair E&C. Barton wants to stay on but a waiver seems unlikely after the BP debacle. There was a rumor in Politico recently that leadership will placate him by having him chair Science and Tech if friend/fellow Texan Hall will step down but he’s not even on that committee so not sure how serious that is. Plus, Hall rebutted the story. Chair on E&C will either be Shimkus, Upton or Stearns.

    Financial Services – Ed Royce is challenging Bachus for chair.

    Homeland Security – King will likely be chair.

    Rules – Dreier will likely be chair.

    Small Business – Rumor the majority will axe the committee because they think it’s pointless, but I think for optics alone they may keep it.

    Veterans – Stearns wants E&C so maybe Jeff Miller for chair.

    Ways and Means – Richie Neal may challenge Levin. Rumor Ryan could become chair but doubt it.

  4. Seniority matters more on the Dem side for a specific reason.  In past years, it was practically the only thing, but a while back, they talked about changing it.  This caused a HUGE uproar from the CBC because they were just getting to the point where they had a lot of members with seniority and they saw this as a way to screw them.  I don’t think that was the intention, but the Dem leadership backed down on it.  The GOP didn’t have this issue and Newt in particular didn’t think it was important, so they look less at it when picking chairmen or ranking members.

  5. Also, I meant to ask, I read somewhere that Ron Paul is going to be head of whatever committee oversees the Fed.  Anybody know what committee that is?  And isn’t that going to be fun.  Sort of the opposite of setting the fox to watch the henhouse – more like setting the PETA member to watch it.  They don’t want the henhouse to be there at all, so they’d probably just tear it down.

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