By Jim Ellis
July 28, 2020 — Since elections always bring changes in the House and Senate committee structures, it is appropriate to begin looking at which key policy panels have the most known approaching changes.
In today’s Update, we begin to look at two anchor financial committees in each house and touch upon the internal political musical chairs. 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.
• Republicans – The GOP has a 15-13 majority on the Finance Committee under the leadership of veteran Sen. 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.
• Democrats – This 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
• Democrats – On this important exclusive committee, the majority Democrats command a 25-17 advantage. They have only one sure vacancy, and that 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 Neal will be denied re-nomination in the Massachusetts primary on Sept. 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 Neal is upset in the primary, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) would be the next most senior member since Rep. 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.
• Republicans – 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. 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 US 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.
• Republicans – 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.
• Democrats – The Democrats have one member retiring – Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). 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.
• Democrats – While they maintain a 30-23 majority on the House Appropriations Committee, three members are retiring including committee chair, Rep. 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 – Three committee members also are retiring: 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 Aug. 4 primary. Long held the congresswoman to a 53-47 percent 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.
Tomorrow, we will look at three other key Senate and House committees.