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How will Committees look in 2021?

Since elections always bring changes in the U.S. House and Senate committee structures, it is appropriate to begin looking at which key policy panels have the most known approaching changes. We look at the known committee vacancies due to retirement or primary defeat and identify the members who face competitive political situations. Obviously, a change in party control will fundamentally cause the greatest change, but we will look at those effects once we are closer to the election.

Senate Finance

Republicans have a 15-13 majority on the Finance Committee under the leadership of veteran Senator Chuck Grassley* (R-IA). Two Republicans are retiring, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), and one, Montana Sen. Steve Daines* is in a highly competitive re-election contest against term-limited Governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock (D). Sen. John Cornyn* (R-TX) will have a substantial amount of money spent against him, but he is considered a likely winner at this time. Of the committee’s 15 Republicans, only four are in-cycle this year.

The Democratic side is even more stable. None are retiring, and just one of their 13 members, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, is in-cycle. He is in a non-competitive situation. Should the Democrats gain the majority, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) would become the new Finance Committee chairman.

House Ways & Means

On this important exclusive committee, majority Democrats command a 25-17 advantage. They have only one sure vacancy, and that is because of Rep. John Lewis’ (D-GA) recent death. Just two of the members have re-election races that can be considered competitive. Ironically, one of those is a Democratic primary challenge to committee chairman Richard Neal* (D-MA-2).

Though it is unlikely that Mr. Neal will be denied re-nomination in the Massachusetts primary on September 1, his opponent, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, has managed to raise over $840,000 for his campaign at the June 30 second quarter financial reporting deadline. If Mr. Neal is upset in the primary Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) would be the next most senior member since Mr. Lewis has passed.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) has already lost this seat once as an incumbent. He faces former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant in a northern Las Vegas anchored district that has yet to re-elect an incumbent since its creation in the 2011 redistricting plan. Rep. Horsford is the clear favorite, but the contest merits attention.

Among the 17 Republicans, two members are retiring. Rep. Kenny Marchant* (R-TX-24) will depart Congress after serving what will be eight terms. North Carolina Rep. George Holding (R-NC-2) is not seeking re-election due to an unfavorable late decade redistricting map that the state Supreme Court mandated. Mr. Holding’s district was changed from a likely Republican district into a safe Democratic domain. Though leaving after this term, he has already filed a committee to again run in 2022 for either another post-redistricting House seat or what will be an open U.S. Senate race.

Four Republican members have varying degrees of competition mounting against them in that they will face opponents spending well into seven figures, but all four, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA-22), Vern Buchanan* (R-FL-16), Tom Reed* (R-NY-23), and Mike Kelly* (R-PA-16), are clear favorites for re-election.

Senate Appropriations

On the majority side, Republicans see one member retiring, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and three who find themselves in competitive re-election fights, two in toss-up campaigns.

Sen. Lindsey Graham* (R-SC) is the clear favorite to win in November within his conservative South Carolina constituency, but the Democratic nominee, former state party chairman Jaime Harrison, had raised a huge $29 million for his campaign at the June 30 financial disclosure second quarter deadline. The two in toss-up campaigns are Sens. Susan Collins* (R-ME) and Steve Daines* (R-MT). Both are must-win situations for Republicans if they are to hold their tenuous majority. 

The Democrats have one member retiring, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), while a solid favorite to win a third term, cannot be considered totally safe coming from a place that has proven itself the nation’s top swing state since the turn of the century. If Democrats capture the majority in November, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would be in line to become the next Finance Committee chairman.

House Appropriations

Democrats maintain a 30-23 majority on the House Appropriations Committee, but three members are retiring including committee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY-17). The other two departing Democratic members are Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-IN-1) and Jose Serrano (D-NY-15). Next in the seniority line is Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), who was originally elected in 1982 but previously passed over for the chair.

Four members face competition of varying degree. Only one finds himself in a district that voting behavior actually favors the Republicans. He is Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8), who is one of 30 Democrats holding a seat that President Trump carried in 2016 and is likely to do so again. Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), Charlie Crist (D-FL-13), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-2) all are likely to face opponents who will run active campaigns, but each is currently considered the likely winner in the Fall campaign.

Republicans are also seeing three committee members retire: Reps. Tom Graves* (R-GA-14), Martha Roby* (R-AL-2), and Will Hurd (R-TX-23).

An additional three face multi-million dollar challenge campaigns. Rep. John Carter* (R-TX-31) did not draw a top tier opponent like he defeated in 2018; in fact, M.J. Hegar (D) is now challenging Sen. John Cornyn* (R), but the Democrats will again spend significant money against him. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry* (R-NE-1) has drawn an experienced state legislator as his opponent but is projected to win again from his center-right eastern Nebraska district.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler* (D-WA-3) will very likely again face college professor Carolyn Long (D) after the August 4 primary. Ms. Long held the Congresswoman to a 53-47% victory two years ago and has already raised over $2.3 million for the re-match. This could be a top tier Democratic challenge race, but Rep. Beutler remains the favorite to win a sixth term.

Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation

Just three of the 14 majority Republicans are on the ballot this year, and two are in competitive races. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner* (R) is in one of the most difficult campaigns in the country, while Alaska first-term incumbent Dan Sullivan* (R) is a clear favorite to win in November despite early polling showing a potentially close race. There are no open seats among the Republican committee members.

Democrats have twelve members, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell would replace chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) if her party assumes control in November.

The Dems also have just three of their Commerce Committee members in-cycle, and two are in competitive campaigns. First-term Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) faces a difficult challenge from manufacturing company owner John James* (R). Sen. Peters appears secure in polling now, but the race is likely to close. The contest was in toss-up mode before the COVID shutdown. The other competitive race is a Democratic primary, as Sen. Ed Markey faces a difficult toss-up challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).

House Energy & Commerce

This is one of the most important committees in the House, and majority Democrats hold a 31-24 advantage. The Dems are looking at four vacancies as Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA-4) are running for the Senate, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is retiring, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) was defeated in the June 23 New York primary. Just one majority member, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), could face a competitive opponent. The Arizona primary is August 4, and we will know more once we see who wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans see six of their members leaving the House at the end of this term, including Ranking Member Greg Walden* (R-OR-2). Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT-AL) is running for Governor, while Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-15), Pete Olson* (R-TX-22), Bill Flores (R-TX-17), and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) are retiring. Michigan Reps. Fred Upton* (R-MI-6) and Tim Walberg* (R-MI-7) have credible opponents and particularly the former man is embroiled in a tough race. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) also has drawn an opponent of stature, but he remains a heavy favorite for re-election.

Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs

Republicans hold a 13-12 majority on the committee and neither party has a retiring member. Six of the Republicans are in-cycle, however, and three are in competitive races. Sens. Martha McSally* (R-AZ), David Perdue* (R-GA), and Thom Tillis* (R-NC) face strong challenges and Arizona and North Carolina polling suggest the incumbents are trailing at this point in the election cycle. Sens. Tom Cotton* (R-AR), Ben Sasse* (R-NE), and Mike Rounds* (R-SD), are all safe for re-election.

Democrats have three members on the ballot, but only one is in a highly competitive race. Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D) is trailing his opponent, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville (R), while Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are secure for re-election.

House Financial Services

Here, Democrats hold a 34-26 majority and have only one retiring member, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who did not seek re-election in order to concentrate on her presidential campaign. As many as seven Democrats face competitive re-election campaigns. One, that of veteran Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), is still undecided after more than a month of post-election counting. Her Democratic primary lead is small and if the counting ever ends, we could see another incumbent loss. The odds are stronger that she barely holds on, but with a 20%+ invalidation factor within the tabulated ballots so far, this race could continue to be bogged down within the flawed electoral process.

Reps. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13) face competitive August 4 primaries, but both are expected to win re-nomination. Reps. Ben McAdams (D-UT-4), Cindy Axne (D-IA-3), face very difficult re-election prospects, while Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL-6) faces a candidate with a strong political base but one that is likely too far right to win in this Chicago suburban district.

The Republicans have two committee members who lost re-nomination, Reps. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) and Denver Riggleman* (R-VA-5). They also see Reps. Ann Wagner* (R-MO-2), Andy Barr* (R-KY-6), French Hill* (R-AR-2), and Lee Zeldin* (R-NY-1) facing well-funded challengers, but all are viewed in situations that, at the very least, lean their way.

Senate Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee yields a Republican majority of 12-10. If the Democrats capture the majority, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would replace Sen. Lindsey Graham* (R-SC) as chairman. Due to internal Republican term limits, it is likely that if the GOP remains in the majority Sen. Chuck Grassley* (R-IA) would re-assume the chairmanship since his time as Finance Committee chairman would end at the conclusion of the current congressional session.

Neither party has a retiring member on the committee and no in-cycle Democrat, and there are three on the November ballot, is in a competitive re-election campaign. Republicans, on the other hand, have four in serious electoral contests, including chairman Graham. Polling posts him slightly ahead of former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, but the challenger has raised an incredible $29 million for his campaign.

While Sen. John Cornyn* (R-TX) is a strong favorite for re-election in the Lone Star State, Sens. Thom Tillis* (R-NC) and Joni Ernst* (R-IA) are today in tight political battles.

House Judiciary

The Democrats hold a 24-16 majority on the House Judiciary Committee, and while none of their members are retiring or lost re-nomination, two, Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA-6) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26), face strong GOP challengers. While Ms. McBath is battling former Rep. Karen Handel* (R) in a re-match, Ms. Mucarsel-Powell’s challenger is Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R). A just-released Meeting Street Insights survey actually finds Mr. Gimenez holding a five-point lead over the freshman South Florida Congresswoman.

Of the 16 Republican members, 24-term veteran Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5) is retiring, along with Alabama Rep. Martha Roby* (R-AL-2). Rep. Doug Collins* (R-GA-9) is running for the Senate. One Republican, veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-1) faces another competitive re-election campaign in his Cincinnati congressional district. Should the Republicans re-assume the House majority, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4) would become the committee chairman.


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