Over the past couple weeks, we’ve written a bit about the Democratic Caucus’ contest for the Ranking Membership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Democrats, however, are not alone in their races for committee leadership in the next Congress. The House Republicans place a three-term, six-year limit on the length of time a person may serve as Chairman of a committee, and two Chairmen are coming to the end of the road. Unless granted waivers from the Republican Conference steering committee, Chairman Darrell Issa of California, who leads the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, who sits atop the Committee on Ways and Means, will have to step aside at the end of 2014. The selection process for each committee will be competitive, even if it is among friends. The Ways and Means Committee oversees tax policy and Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s primary task is to review the work of the Executive Branch to ensure that it enforces the law and does so in an ethical manner. A number of Republicans are angling to be the next Congress’ Chairman of the Oversight Committee—including Chairman Issa himself. Chairman Issa has indicated that he might ask the Republican steering committee to waive the term limit. A few other Members have expressed interest in spot, including Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Representative Chaffetz has publicly acknowledged his desire for the position and has taken a number of steps that will increase his odds of selection, including demonstrating hard work on the panel and raising money for other Republicans. For the Ways and Means Committee, it will come down to a race between Representative Kevin Brady and the more junior, but better known, Representative Paul Ryan. Although Ryan has greater name recognition and has often been talked about as Chairman Camp’s successor, Brady recently said that he will challenge him for the position.
Although the races to lead the House committees are important, by far, the most important races this year will be the Senate elections. Most analysts concede that the Senate is in play, and some even suggest that the Republicans have very good chances of taking control of the Chamber. One of the biggest Republican advantages is that Democrats currently hold more than 20 of the 36 seats that will be contested. Additionally, the Democrats will be facing the dreaded “six-year itch”, a phrase politicos use to refer to the phenomenon of a President’s party losing congressional seats in the midterm election taking place in the his second term. Also, some key Democratic constituencies, like young and minority voters, tend to stay at home during midterm elections, which could also endanger some candidates. Waging an uphill battle will be an expensive proposition for the Democrats, and the party is working hard to raise money to defend their candidates. In fact, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raised $18 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee. President Barack Obama himself has recently conducted two appeals, one for the Democratic Governors Association in Virginia and another in Boston last week.
If you hate having to hear cell phone chatter wherever you go, you are probably dreading the prospect of having to listen to it on airplanes now that Federal Communications Commission determined that it was not opposed to the use cellular phones in flight. Well, some folks in Washington have got your back. The Department of Transportation also claims jurisdiction on the matter and is engaged in a public comment period in assessing whether to introduce a regulation banning cell phone calls in the air. Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania has introduced a bill prohibiting phone calls. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California have produced legislation to the same effect and have urged the Department of Transportation to rule against inflight cell phone use.
And for our latest post: The Deans of the House: Capping Off a Career