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Committee Control in the 110th Congress: Who Will be Left Sitting?

by Demian Brady / /

This November, majority control of 110th Session of Congress could be up for grabs, and with it, control of the committees responsible for drafting and marking up legislation for floor consideration. Committee Chairmen play an important role in establishing federal spending priorities. Should the Democrats pick up enough seats in the House or the Senate, they will get to appoint new Chairmen for the first time in years. Even if the Republicans hang on in the House, they will have to choose several new Committee Chairmen because of the retirement of long-serving Members as well as a Republican-imposed rule limiting the length of service. To the victor goes the spoils, but what can taxpayers expect from the Congressmen who will be chosen to sit in these important seats of power and influence?

This Issue Brief utilizes the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's (NTUF) BillTally system to determine the dollar cost of the legislative agendas of the potential new Chairmen in the next Congress. BillTally tabulates the cost or savings of every piece of spending legislation introduced in Congress and cross-indexes these figures with the sponsorship records of all Members. The costs represent the annual change in federal spending that would occur if all the legislation sponsored or cosponsored by that Member were enacted into law. All dollar figures are based on the legislative agendas compiled during the First Session of the 109th Congress. During that period, a total of 1,485 bills having an impact of $1 million or more were introduced in Congress. Except where indicated, the likely Chairmen for the 110th Congress were selected by each Member's incumbency on his or her Committee or by seniority. While seniority is not the sole variable taken into account when a party caucus selects Chairmen, it is a key factor.

Table 1. Average Spending Agendas of Potential Democratic and Republican Committee Chairs in the 110th Congress
(in billions)

 

Proposed Increases

Proposed Decreases

Net Agenda

HOUSE

Democratic Potential Chairs

$931.4

($.2)

$931.2

Republican Potential Chairs

$16.3

($6.2)

$10.1

SENATE

Democratic Potential Chairs

$40.6

($.2)

$40.4

Republican Potential Chairs

$21.5

($9.8)

$11.7

Notes: See Tables 2 and 3 for the complete list of potential Chairmen. Only the major committees (listed in Tables 2 and 3) where federal spending is most likely to take place were used in this study.

Table 1 shows the average spending agendas of the pool of potential Democratic and Republican Chairmen in the next Congress. As the data demonstrates, the respective parties would accelerate spending at far different rates. Democrats in general proposed more spending increases and fewer budget savings. In the House of Representatives, the average potential Democratic Chair proposed to increase spending by $931.2 billion – 90 times higher than the average Republican's increases of $10.1 billion. In the Senate, the average Democrat called for over three times as many spending increases than the average Republican, $40.4 billion versus $11.7 billion. Among the Representatives, the average Democrat included in the Table sponsored or cosponsored 67 bills to increase spending while the average Republican supported 28 increase bills. Similarly, Senate Democrats signed onto an average of 50 increase bills while their Republican colleagues backed 33.

Tables 2 and 3 below detail the net spending agendas of each party's potential lineup of Committee Chairmen in the House and Senate for the 110th Congress. Nine of the likely Democratic Chairs are supporters of legislation to establish a federally-funded single-payer universal health care system. Three Republicans in the House and four in the Senate sponsored a mix of legislation that would reduce federal outlays. In the House, not one Democrat called for less spending than their potential Republican counterpart. In the Senate, the potential Democratic Chairmen for the Appropriations, Armed Services, and Homeland Security Committees proposed fewer increases than the likely Republican Chairs.

Table 2. Net Spending Agendas of Potential House Committee Chairs in the 110th Congress
(in billions)

Committee

Potential Democratic
Chair

Net
Spending
Agenda

Potential Republican
Chair

Net
Spending
Agenda

Agriculture

Peterson, Collin (MN)

$50.4

Goodlatte, Bob (VA)

$13.4

Appropriations

Obey, David (WI)

$46.9

Lewis, Jerry (CA)

$7.2

Armed Services

Skelton, Ike (MO)

$1.9

Hunter, Duncan (CA)

($9.7)

Budget

Spratt, John (SC)

$2.9

Ryun, Jim (KS)*

($18.7)

Education & the Workforce

Miller, George (CA)

$1,675.2

McKeon, Howard (CA)

$7.7

Energy & Commerce

Dingell, John (MI)

$564.1

Barton, Joe (TX)

$10.4

Financial Services

Frank, Barney (MA)

$1,674.6

Baker, Richard (LA)*

$43.1

Government Reform

Waxman, Henry (CA)

$1,671.9

Davis, Thomas (VA)

$6.2

Homeland Security

Thompson, B. (MS)

$1,623.3

King, Peter (NY)

$7.2

International Relations

Lantos, Tom (CA)

$1,647.4

Leach, James (IA)*

$12.7

Judiciary

Conyers, John (MI)

$1,733.1

Coble, Howard (NC)*

$35.9

Resources

Rahall, Nick (WV)

$66.4

Pombo, Richard (CA)

$16.8

Science

Gordon, Bart (TN)

$56.7

Hall, Ralph (TX)*

$5.5

Small Business

Velazquez, N. (NY)

$1,587.0

Bartlett, Roscoe (MD)*

($17.3)

Transportation & Infrastructure

Oberstar, James (MN)

$81.1

Petri, Thomas (WI)*

$39.6

Veterans Affairs

Filner, Bob (CA)

$1,712.0

Buyer, Stephen (IN)

$7.8

Ways & Means

Rangel, Charles (NY)

$1,635.2

McCrery, Jim (LA)*

$4.6

Source for Agenda Totals: NTUF's BillTally research program. Numbers represent the annual change in federal spending that would occur if all the legislation sponsored or cosponsored by that Member during the First Session of the 109th Congress were enacted into law.

* There are other potential candidates for these Committee Chairs. See endnote on page 3 for the other possible Members.[1] The likely Chair was selected by seniority, except for Ways & Means. There are other candidates for this Committee who have higher seniority; however, Roll Call recently identified Representative McCrery as the frontrunner ("20 Questions to Ask About the 110th Congress," Roll Call, September 11, 2006).

 

Table 3. Net Spending Agendas of Potential Senate Committee Chairs in the 110th Congress
(in billions)

Committee

Potential Democratic
Chair

Net
Spending
Agenda

Potential Republican
Chair

Net Spending
Agenda

Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

Harkin, Tom (IA)

$48.9

Chambliss, Saxby (GA)

($10.2)

Appropriations

Byrd, Robert (WV)

$1.7

Cochran, Thad (MS)

$15.9

Armed Services

Levin, Carl (MI)

$29.8

Warner, John (VA)

$99.5

Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs

Dodd, Christopher (CT)

$29.8

Shelby, Richard (AL)

($39.6)

Budget

Conrad, Kent (ND)

$518.0

Gregg, Judd (NH)

$2.4

Commerce, Science & Trans.

Inouye, Daniel (HI)

$21.9

Stevens, Ted (AK)

$15.2

Energy & Natural Resources

Bingaman, Jeff (NM)

$52.0

Domenici, Pete (NM)

$17.6

Environment & Public Works

Boxer, Barbara (CA)

$85.6

Inhofe, James (OK)

$30.1

Finance

Baucus, Max (MT)

$31.3

Grassley, Charles (IA)

$16.7

Foreign Relations

Biden, Joseph (DE)

$35.7

Lugar, Richard (IN)

$15.2

Health, Ed., Labor & Pensions

Kennedy, Edward (MA)

$93.3

Enzi, Michael (WY)

$25.4

Homeland Security & Govt. Affairs

Carper, Thomas (DE)*

$18.5

Collins, Susan (ME)

$32.9

Indian Affairs

Dorgan, Byron (ND)

$37.8

McCain, John (AZ)

$4.8

Judiciary

Leahy, Patrick (VT)

$26.9

Specter, Arlen (PA)

($25.0)

Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Kerry, John (MA)

$120.9

Snowe, Olympia (ME)

$32.4

Veterans' Affairs

Akaka, Daniel (HI)

$11.1

Craig, Larry (ID)

($46.0)

Source for Agenda Totals: NTUF's BillTally research program. Numbers represent the annual change in federal spending that would occur if all the legislation sponsored or cosponsored by that Member in the First Session of the 109th Congress were enacted into law. Totals may not add due to rounding. Potential Committee Chairs for the 110th Congress were selected by current Committee ranking.

* Senator Joseph Lieberman (with a net spending agenda of $30.8 billion) is the current Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Because he is running as an Independent candidate for re-election to his seat from Connecticut, it is not known whether he will be able to rejoin the Democratic Party and retain his seniority within the caucus. Senator Carper is next in rank on the Committee.

Recent polling indicates that control of Congress is in flux, and a number of current Chairmen may find that they have lost their seats. In the aftermath of this electoral version of musical chairs, there is no doubt that the taxpayers will be stuck paying the piper, but the new potential Committee Chairs could influence the size of the bill.

Notes

[1] Other likely Republican contenders for the noted House Committee Chairs and their net spending agendas: Budget: Ander Crenshaw (FL): -$0.6 billion; Financial Services: Spencer Bachus (AL): $41.9 billion; International Relations: Dan Burton (IN): -$7.5 billion, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): $8.0 billion, and Edward Royce (CA): $2.4 billion; Judiciary: Lamar Smith (TX): $1.3 billion, and Steve Chabot (OH): -$21.5 billion; Science: Curt Weldon (PA): $6.5 billion, Dana Rohrabacher (CA): $1.9 billion, and Vernon Ehlers (MI): $33.5 billion; Small Business: Sue Kelly (NY), $39.9 billion, and Sam Graves (MO): $20.1 billion; Transportation & Infrastructure: John Duncan (TN): $30.1 billion, and John Mica (FL): $32.1 billion; and Ways & Means: Clay Shaw (FL): $15.6 billion and Nancy Johnson (CT): $19.8 billion.


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