For the eight current House candidates who previously have served in the chamber, a second chance at a Congressional seat gives them a slight edge over some other prospective freshmen because they are all but guaranteed to regain their seniority and the few perks that go along with it.
“Mac has been promised his 12 years of seniority,” said Ted Prill, campaign manager for former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), who is challenging two-term Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall in a competitive race. Collins has touted his previous service in his campaign, as seniority can boost a Member’s chance of getting everything from plum committee assignments to better office space.
Collins is the only candidate of the eight former Members running for office this year who sat on an exclusive committee, House Ways and Means, but Prill said leadership has made no commitments on that front. “He’ll ask for the committee assignments that best fit the needs of the district,” he said.
Former Members “get credit for previous Congressional service for full House purposes,” said Ron Bonjean, communications director for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who has five votes and significant sway over assignments doled out by the Republican Steering Committee. “Committee assignments have yet to be discussed.”
Fellow Georgia candidate and former Rep. Max Burns (R) served only one term in the House, and Tim Baker, Burns’ campaign manager, said that while Burns would “definitely” pursue his old seats on the Agriculture, Education and the Workforce, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, there have been no discussions to that end.
“We have not spoken with anyone in leadership about that,” Baker said. “It’s just not been a discussion on a staff or Member level yet.”
On the Democratic side, there are at least three former Members in competitive races, including ex-Reps. Baron Hill (Ind.), Nick Lampson (Texas), and Ken Lucas (Ky.), and to a lesser extent Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (Texas).
“I am not discussing that until I get there,” Rodriguez said on Monday. When asked if he would pursue his former seats on the Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services committees, Rodriguez said, “Initially, yes,” suggesting he was eyeing new slots. “I’ll share that with the Speaker,” he added.
A senior Democratic aide said Monday that while seniority can help former Members in the committee process, it is up to the discretion of the Democratic Steering Committee to determine committee assignments and seniority.
For instance, when outgoing Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Ga.) returned to Congress for a second stint in 2004 after having lost in the 2002 Democratic primary, she was reassigned to the Armed Services Committee, but without her seniority status from her previous tenure — due, in part, because McKinney was not in good graces with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or most of the senior Members who make up the Steering panel.
It would not be as difficult for Hill, Lampson, or Lucas to seek and regain their committee assignments as none of the three sat on exclusive panels, but the Democratic aide said that none of the candidates have sent letters to the Steering Committee yet to inform them of their intentions.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.