Sen. Mike Enzi (left) said he will seek the ranking member slot on the Budget Committee, deferring to Sen. Jeff Sessions, who currently holds that position.
Along with the Budget and Judiciary committees, Sessions serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee. He also serves on the Armed Services Committee, but Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who was term limited as the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to take that post.
Alexander announced Thursday evening in a release that he anticipates taking over the top Republican spot on the HELP Committee. The release touted a hearing set for next week that will investigate a recent meningitis out break.
“In the new Congress, Alexander is likely to be ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is holding the hearing entitled ‘Pharmacy Compounding: Implications of the 2012 Meningitis Outbreak,’” the release said.
Enzi has served as HELP’s ranking member for six years, and spent two years as chairman. Republican rules say that a Member cannot serve as chairman of a committee for six years, plus six as ranking member. It’s unclear what the limits are on years spent only as ranking member.
But the prevailing wisdom is that Enzi will move on.
“If the Republicans had taken control of the Senate, [Enzi] could have been HELP Committee chair, but since he has served six years as ranking member, I believe he can’t keep that slot,” said Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.
The Budget Committee ranking member position is a desirable spot right now, as the panel is likely to be at the heart of the Congressional debate on fiscal issues.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who is currently the Democratic Conference Secretary, is expected to be chairwoman of the panel following the retirement of current Chairman Kent Conrad (R-N.D.).
Alexander has the opportunity to become the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, sources said, but subcommittee assignments are still in flux. He is currently the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
Coincidentally, HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also heads the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.
Emily Etheridge, Lauren Smith and Paul Krawzak contributed to this report.