Committee Continuity – Part II

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2020 — Completing our two-part series on changes we may see on some key House and Senate committee panels, today we look at the financial, commerce, and legal committees.


SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE & TRANSPORTATION

Republicans – 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 – The Democrats have 12 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

Democrats – 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 Aug. 4, and we will know more once we see who wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans – Six Republicans will leave 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 Shimkus, particularly, 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 – With 13-12 majority on the committee, six of the Republicans are in-cycle, and three are in competitive races. Neither party has a retiring member. 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 – Three members are 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

Democrats – On this committee, the Dems 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 percent-plus 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 Aug. 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.

Republicans – Two committee members lost re-nomination: Reps. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA-5). Also, Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO-2), Andy Barr (R-KY-6), French Hill (R-AR-2), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) face well-funded challengers, but all are viewed in situations that, at the very least, lean their way.


SENATE JUDICIARY

Republicans – With a majority of 12-10, if the Republicans lose 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, however, Republicans 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.

Democrats – No in-cycle Democrat – and there are three on the November ballot – is in a competitive re-election campaign.


HOUSE JUDICIARY

Democrats – The Dems hold a 24-16 majority on this 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 McBath is battling former Rep. Karen Handel (R) in a re-match, Mucarsel-Powell’s challenger is Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R). A just-released Meeting Street Insights survey actually finds Gimenez holding a five-point lead over the freshman South Florida congresswoman.

Republicans – 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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