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Legislative Updates: November 2012


Capitol Call

After a long, grueling campaign, President Obama won another term on Tuesday, November 6. He’ll be joined in Washington by dozens of freshmen Congressmen and Senators since the House had 63 open seats and the Senate 12 due to redistricting or retirements.

While the House remained in Republican hands, Democrats chipped away at the 25-seat Republican majority by eight seats, so 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats will now convene in January for the 113th Congress. Meanwhile the Senate remained in Democratic hands with a majority of 55 (53 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with them) to 45 Republicans, an increase of two seats from the 53-47 majority that the Democrats presently hold.

If, as expected, the ratio of Democratic and Republican committee members remains the same as it was during the 112th Congress, the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) will have eight new Republican members and two new Democratic members. It will also have a new Chairman and Ranking Member, because Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama) is term-limited and Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) is retiring. Though they won’t officially be named until January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) are expected to assume the positions of Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively. The Capital Markets Subcommittee, which oversees both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the options industry, may have a new Chairman and, with Rep. Waters leaving her post, will appoint a new Ranking Member. It remains to be seen who will assume those positions.

Here is a list of all the HFSC Members who retired or lost their re-election bids:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) - Retired; Rep. Robert Dold (R-Illinois) - Lost; Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Illinois) – Lost; Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) - Won Senate seat; Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) – Retired; Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Illinois) – Lost Primary; Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Michigan) – Resigned; Rep. Quico Canseco (R-Texas) – Lost; Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-New York) – Lost; Rep. Frank Guinta (R-New Hampshire) - Lost

Over in the Senate, Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the current Ranking Member of the Securities Subcommittee, which oversees both the SEC and the options industry, is projected to become the top Republican of the full Committee. Chairman Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) will remain chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Based on the current ratios that will likely continue next year, the Democrats will have two openings on the Committee because Senators Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) have retired. The Republicans will have one opening because Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) is term-limited as Ranking Member and is expected to leave the Committee to take over the top Republican spot on the Appropriations Committee. Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) will likely remain Subcommittee chairman, but the new Ranking Member will not be known until January..

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees experienced very little turnover on Election Day. Based on current Committee ratios, there will be two new Republican House Agriculture Committee members and three new Democratic members. Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) are expected to remain in their posts next year.

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), after winning re-election, is expected to hold the top spot on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) may be replaced as Ranking Member by Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) because Sen. Cochran is term-limited as the top Republican of the Appropriations Committee and may exercise his prerogative, as a more senior member, to take over as Ranking Member of the Ag Committee. It’s a complicated situation, and it likely won’t be resolved until next year. All other members of the Committee are expected to remain during the 113th Congress.

The House Republican leadership will remain intact, with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) continuing as Speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) as Majority Leader. Only the fifth-highest position of Republican Conference Chair is likely to change. On the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on November 14 that she would remain at her post for the next session.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will keep his position next year, as will Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The rest of the Democratic leadership team will largely remain intact, including Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as Majority Whip. With the retirement of Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Senator Jon Cronyn (R-TX) has been appointed as the new Minority Whip.

Much remains to be completed before the 112th Congress can wrap up, including addressing sequestration, expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and other issues that were punted until after the election. Its lame duck session began in earnest on November 13 but with the same divided government for at least two more years, President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid will have to work together if they hope to solve the problems our country faces.

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