Meet Your New Committee Chairs

With the Republicans set to assume control of the House in January, a host of new Republican committee chairmen and chairwomen—as well as a new majority leadership team--are waiting in the wings.

With the Republicans set to assume control of the House in January, a host of new Republican committee chairmen and chairwomen—as well as a new majority leadership team--are waiting in the wings. Barring any last-minute political maneuvering, here are the current ranking Republicans set to head their respective committees and guide their caucus as members of leadership:


Speaker: Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) will take over for the current speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It is difficult to imagine how two representatives could resemble each other less. As minority leader, Boehner was just as effective at resisting Democratic priorities as Speaker Pelosi was at marshalling votes for them.

Majority Leader: The current House GOP Whip, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), is set to take over as the House majority leader, replacing the current Democratic leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

Whip: Cantor has been a success as Whip, rallying the Republican delegation to almost unanimously oppose most of the sweeping social reforms passed by the 111th Congress. At the moment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is set to take over the Whip position. On Tuesday, it was revealed that Rep. Jim Sessions (R-TX) will seek another term as Chairman of the NRCC and will not challenge McCarthy, virtually assuring his ascension to this position.

Committee Heads:

Judiciary: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will replace John Conyers (D-MI) as head of the House Judiciary Committee. Smith, a Yale graduate and social conservative, has vowed to hold the Obama Administration responsible for failing to protect the southern border. Smith is additionally promising “a number of investigations and oversight committee actions.”

Energy and Commerce: Republican ranking member Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is term limited and cannot take over for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) is the ranking member of the Science and Technology Committee and is next in line to inherit its chairmanship, but he has moved on to chair the Science and Technology Committee. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is likely to take over as chairman. Some of the items left over from the previous Congress that will garner the attention of Mr. Hall include net neutrality, Google’s data collection methods and, of course, carbon emission caps.

Financial Services: Replacing outgoing Banking Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) will be Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL). However, he has encountered a challenge to this chairmanship from GOP veteran Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA). Bachus, an accomplished lawmaker, has been criticized for his lack of a forceful personality, which some say is needed to roll back the regulatory legislation that emerged from the committee under Frank’s leadership. Furthermore, Bachus has been criticized for opining that “Sarah Palin cost us the Senate.” While this will do little to ingratiate Bachus to incoming Tea Party representatives, comments of this sort should debunk the notion that the Alabama Republican lacks gumption.

Natural Resources: Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) will relieve Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) of his position as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. With ongoing battles over deep-water drilling and investigations into last summer’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Hastings will have his hands full.

Armed Forces: Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), having been defeated in his bid for an 18th term, will cede his chairmanship of the Armed Forces Committee to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA). McKeon’s stated priority is to prevent military spending bills from being “weighed down” by social legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was heavily criticized earlier this year for inserting provisions of the DREAM Act into a defense spending bill. Doing so effectively killed the bill’s chance of passage, but may have paid off politically by endearing Reid to Nevada Hispanics, who turned out in large numbers to support his reelection bid. Rep. McKeon says he intends to put an end to similar practices.

Ways and Means: Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) replaced the scandal-plagued chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), earlier this year. Now Rep. Levin will be replaced by his Republican counterpart, Rep. David Camp (D-MI). The Ways and Means Committee will be at the center of any battle to defund provisions of the new health care reform legislation – the primary means by which House Republicans can stall the rollout of the unpopular reform bill. Furthermore, Camp released a statement last Thursday stating his unequivocal opposition to raising taxes in a recession. It is a safe bet he will hold firm on his support of the extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts for at least two years.

Intelligence: Outgoing Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) is in a difficult position. speculates this week that when faced with a demotion, Reyes will seek to replace the defeated Skelton as ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. Reyes will be replaced by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA). Ranking Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) is retiring this year. Hoekstra had committed to conducting hearings on how the “threat of persecution” of the CIA by the Justice Department has affected the performance of officers. Last year, the Justice Department launched a review of CIA conduct in interrogation techniques and pledged to prosecute any violation of law regarding rendition techniques. It is a good bet that Gallegly will pursue this policy in Hoekstra's absence.

Education and Labor: Rep. George Miller (D-CA) will be replaced as chairman of the Education and Labor Committee by Rep. John Kline (R-MN). With a variety of spokespeople for the Obama Administration intimating that education reform will be a major priority next year, this committee will be central in that effort. Kline has been critical of the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” policy and has argued that this year’s “Race to the Top” initiative lacked oversight and was marred by wasteful spending. Kline is likely to seek an approach to education reform that emulates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s teachers union-busting, an approach that is all but certain to be opposed by the White House.  

Homeland Security: Rep.Bennie Thompson (D-MI) will be replaced by the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY). The outspoken Republican congressman has vowed to challenge the Obama Administration on its plan to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to prisons within the continental United States. King has criticized his Democratic counterparts for holding hearings on Hurricane Katrina and on the diversity of Department of Homeland Security personnel rather than attending to issues such as the Ft. Hood attack and the Guantanamo Bay prisoner issue.

Appropriations: Retiring Rep. David Obey (D-WI) will vacate his seat as chairman of the Appropriations Committee to make way for the ranking Republican, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Lewis has vowed to immediately cut federal spending by $100 billion and will attempt to reduce government spending to 2008 levels. In a statement last week, Rep. Lewis said American voters had endorsed reduced spending in the recent elections and that “the Appropriations Committee will be ground-zero in this fight.”


Agriculture: Collin Peterson (D-MN) will be replaced by Frank Lucas (R-OK). The concerns of the Agriculture Committee have been largely immune to changes in the balance of political power in Washington. It will be interesting to see if this tendency holds true in the next Congress.

Budget: Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) lost his bid for reelection to a 15th term, and his chairmanship of the Budget Committee will be taken over by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan is a rising star within the Republican Party, and the Budget Committee will take center stage as spending reforms are recommended and implemented in the next congressional budget.

Foreign Relations: Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) will be replaced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American ever elected to Congress, is expected to oppose the President’s attempts to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba.

House Administration: Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) will be replaced by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Lungren inherits jurisdiction over campaign finance reform and the third-party spending in elections expanded by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling earlier this year.

Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) will be replaced by Darryl Issa (R-CA) who has been outspoken about his pursuit of government corruption as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He told Politico this week that he wants “seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks.” He tempered Wall Street expectations, however, asserting that traders will have to accept additional regulations in the future.

Rules: Rep. David Drier (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the Rules Committee is term limited and cannot replace Chairwoman Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). There is some speculation that the chairwomanship might fall to Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), but this is far from certain. She is outranked by Rep. Pete Sessions, but he is obligated as the chair of the NRCC and may be unable or unwilling to head this committee.  

Science and Technology: If Rep. Ralph Hall decides to take the ranking position at Energy and Commerce, which he says he will, this chairmanship would fall to either Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) or Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Outgoing Chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) is retiring. 

Small Business: Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) will take the chairmanship of the Small Business Committee from Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). Graves is on record saying that new requirements in the health care reform bill that require small businesses making purchases over $600 to file a 1099 form are creating uncertainty and, amidst a recession, this kind of regulation is “the worst thing we can do.”

Transportation and Infrastructure: Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) narrowly lost his reelection bid and will be replaced by John Mica (R-FL). President Obama’s high-speed rail priority will be sent to this committee for review. Mica has suggested that, under his leadership, the Transportation Committee will not be friendly to proposed fuel-tax increases.

Veterans’ Affairs: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) will take over control of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee from Rep. Bob Filner (R-CA). Stearns, a Vietnam veteran, will contend with reforming and decreasing response times to injury claims and coverage costs.

Standards and Official Conduct: Also known as the Ethics Committee. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) will take over from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Major outstanding corruption charges against Representatives Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will need to be resolved in the next session if they are not attended to by the committee’s current leadership during the lame duck session.Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named Rep. Ralph Hall as the likely  chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and retiring Rep. Peter Hoekstra as chair of the Intelligence Committee.

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at

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