114th Congress Faces Significant Committee Shake-Ups

In the wake of last week’s election, both chambers of Congress (and both parties) are facing significant changes to committee memberships with the start of the 114th Congress. Earlier this week,  Andy Wright wrote about some of the likely new Senate committee chairs and the implications. We at Just Security thought it would be useful to provide some more details about likely shifts in committee leadership, as well as looking at changes to a few House committees that are likely of interest to our readers. The discussion below doesn’t account for any additional seat-swapping or committee shifting that may happen as the parties decide how to (re)structure their leadership. 

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). This committee is facing a large degree of turnover; four of 26 committee members will not be returning for the 114th Congress. Those member are: Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

To the fear of many a defense contractor, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be taking over as SASC chairman, leaving the role of current-Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) unclear. Levin is the current chair, which means the ranking member position may flow to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the natural successor for that seat based on seniority.

This shift in leadership will naturally lead to a number of changes for the SASC’s subcommittees (Airland, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Personnel, Readiness and Management Support, Seapower, and Strategic Forces). Both the chair and ranking member sit ex officio on each subcommittee, so the makeup of every subcommittee will include several new members. Additionally, due to his new role as chair, McCain is vacating a non-ex officio seat on the subcommittees on Airland, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, and Seapower.

Overall, there will be at least three new Republicans and one new Democrat named to fill the SASC, and every subcommittee will need various vacancies filled as well.

Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). The HSGAC is also facing significant turnover with either four or five members out of 16 not returning for the 114th Congress. Those members are: Levin, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), as well as potentially Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Coburn is the current-ranking member of the HSGAC and will be succeeded by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). It is likely that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) will take over as ranking member once he hands over his chairmanship to Johnson. All in all, the HSGCA will need to appoint at least three new Republicans and at least one Democrat (maybe two, depending on the outcome of the Louisiana run-off election in early December).

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). The SSCI has a different structure than many other committees. Eight of its 15 members are chosen by membership on four committees (Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Judiciary) and the other seven are chosen regardless of other committee membership.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is the likely chair in the new Congress, and there will be at least three new Republicans and one Democrat on the committee in January. Many expect Burr’s control of the gavel to lead to more relaxed oversight of the Intelligence Community, which has worried liberal commentators and could have a significant effect upon the release of the SSCI’s report on torture.

Five of the current SSCI members will not return for the 114th Congress. Those members are: Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.), Udall, Levin, Chambliss, and Coburn.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). Both the SFRC and SJC will have comparatively stable memberships in the new Congress. All members of both committees will return to the Senate in January, though both committees will face some seat shifting to permit Republicans to hold the majority of seats.

On the SFRC, two Democrats will lose their seats so that new Republicans can be named to the committee. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the most junior Democrats on the committee, may be those senators.

The same is true with the SJC. In this case, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are the most junior Democrats who may yield their seats to the Republicans.

House Armed Services Committee (HASC). Following the January retirement of current HASC chair, Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif, Rep. Mac Thornberry seems likely to take over the Republican-controlled committee with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) likely to continue to serve as the ranking member. In January, there will be at least two new Republicans on the HASC and at least six new Democrats on the 62-member committee.

Departing members are: Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), Rep. William Enyart (D-Ill.), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas).

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). Compared to the SSCI, the HPSCI is fairly stable with only three of its 21 members not returning for the 114th Congress. However, the departures are fairly notable. Neither Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the current chair, nor Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) ran for reelection. Both seats will be replaced with Republicans in January. Likewise, the seat currently held by Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) will need to be replaced with a Democrat in the new year.

Other Notes. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), the current chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is term-limited in his chairmanship. There are reports that up to four members are seeking the position, so it’s still unclear what direction that committee will take in the new year.

For the House Foreign Affairs Committee, four of its 46 members will not be returning to Congress. Those members are: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.). Each representative will need to be replaced with a member of his own party.

For the House Homeland Security Committee, only Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Perry will need to be replaced in January.

Just Security will continue to provide updates and coverage of congressional news in the lead-up to the 114th Congress. 

About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).