Senate Finalizes Panel Ratios, Doles Out Assignments
Updated: 8 p.m.
Senate Democrats shed seats on key committees, but it appears departures and electoral losses spared leaders from having to make deep cuts from key panels as assignments were finalized Thursday.
The distribution of committee seats ends a three-week waiting period that had caused some frustration among lawmakers. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been negotiating the new ratios as a result of the GOP gaining six Senate seats in November.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), dropped from 18 Democratic members to 16 in the 112th Congress, according to a list of ratios and assignments obtained by Roll Call.
Republicans gained two seats on the panel, bring their numbers from 12 to 14. Several new GOP lawmakers were appointed to the spending panel that will have its operations somewhat altered in the wake of the earmark ban.
New Republican members on the Appropriations Committee include Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.). All but Graham were elected in 2010, although Coats has previously served in the chamber.
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (Md.) will join the Finance Committee, becoming the only Democrat to be added to the powerful panel led by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). The number of Democrats on the panel held steady at 13, while Republicans increased their presence by one seat, bringing their total to 11 lawmakers.
Snagging a seat on the Finance panel is a plum achievement for Cardin, a former House Member who was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Cardin replaces former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who was ousted in November by now-Sen. John Boozman (R).
Republican Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) were also added to the powerful committee.
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) succeeded in her long-sought push to become the chairwoman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee — perhaps a nod from Reid for taking the helm of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in what is likely to be a tough cycle for Democrats. She replaces Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who will head the Indian Affairs Committee.
Democrats lost one seat on the Armed Services Committee, bringing the number of majority members to 14. New Democratic members of the panel include Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.). Joining them on the Republican side of the aisle will be Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.).
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was added to the roster of the Foreign Relations Committee, as were Democratic Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.) and Chris Coons (Del.).
Democratic membership on the Foreign Relations panel dropped from 11 to 10. Republicans added one seat, bringing their total representation on the panel to nine lawmakers — including freshman Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah).
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats lost two seats from the panel, bringing their total to 10, while Republicans gained one seat. Coons and Blumenthal were added to the panel on the Democratic side; Lee was added to the Republican roster.
The Senate Democratic and Republican conferences are scheduled Thursday afternoon to complete their work on new committee ratios, as well as who will serve on each of the panels.
Several Republicans — especially those beginning their first terms — had complained that the delay in receiving committee assignments had hindered their offices’ ability to organize.
McConnell began calling Republicans on Tuesday night to inform them of their committee assignments, several GOP aides confirmed Wednesday.
David M. Drucker contributed to this report.