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Reid Prompts Early Fight Over Committees

Leahy chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which has jurisdiction over the State Department. He did not say if he had already spoken to Reid about his committee assignments.

Reid said Tuesday that he would be talking to Members in the coming days about which subcommittees they would be willing to relinquish in order to give new Members a seat at the table.

Reid “is working with more senior Members to make sure more junior Members have a seat at the table,” said Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau, who declined to specify exactly what Reid’s plan was for doling out influence within the Democratic Conference.

If Reid succeeds in enforcing a two subcommittee chairmanship limit, it may force Senators such as Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) or Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) to make some difficult choices.

Dorgan chairs three subcommittees: one on Appropriations, one on Commerce, Science and Transportation and one on Energy and Natural Resources. Cardin does not currently chair any subcommittees but is in line to head up panels on Environment and Public Works, Foreign Relations and Judiciary, given the limits on full committee chairmen.

But the consequences are potentially far-reaching for many other Members depending on which committee assignments they choose. Democrats expect to expand their majorities on all committees by at least one seat. Plus, at the beginning of each new Congress, Members of all rank and seniority jockey for open positions and sometimes leave open other committee spots when they receive a coveted assignment on panels such as Appropriations or Finance.

Tim Taylor contributed to this report.

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