NAICU Washington Update

2017 Congressional Leadership Takes Shape

December 13, 2016

With very little turnover, Congressional leaders in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses were chosen during the recent lame duck session.  Although nothing will be made official until the First Session of the 115th Congress convenes on January 3, 2017, the important positioning and voting has already taken place. 

Party Leadership

The surprise win by President-elect Donald J. Trump turned the tables on which party had the more fractious leadership elections in the House.  Congressional Republicans united in a unanimous voice vote of support for the House Republican leadership team: Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) as Speaker of the House; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA) as Majority Leader; Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) as Majority Whip; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (WA) as GOP Conference Chair; and Rep. Luke Messer (IN) as Policy Chair.

Things turned more contentious on the Democratic side when Rep. Tim Ryan (OH) challenged long-time Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) for the Minority Leader post, claiming the November elections highlighted the need for leaders to better represent middle-America.  Pelosi won re-election with 134 votes, while Ryan garnered 63 votes.  Other members of the current Democratic Leadership maintained their positions with the selections of Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD) as Minority Whip; Rep. James Clyburn (SC) as Assistant Minority Whip; and Rep. Joe Crowley (NY) as Conference Chair.

In the Senate, Republican Leadership also saw substantial continuity with Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) remaining as Majority Leader; Sen. John Cornyn (TX) as Majority Whip; Sen. John Thune (SD) as Conference Chair; Sen. John Barasso (WY) Policy Committee Chair; and Sen. Roy Blunt (MO) as Conference Vice Chair.

The Senate Democratic Leadership was shuffled with the retirement of Sen. Harry Reid (NV), and the post-election desire to recognize the successes and shortcomings of the party.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) was chosen as Minority Leader, Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) as Minority Whip, Sen. Patty Murray (WA) as Assistant Minority Leader, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MN) as Policy and Communications Chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) as Outreach Chair, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI) as Conference Secretary, and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) as Policy and Communications Vice Chair.


With Republicans maintaining control of the House and Senate, changes to committee leadership comes mostly from term limits and retirements.


Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC) will Chair the Education and the Workforce Committee, taking over for the retiring Rep. John Kline (MN). Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) will remain as the Ranking Member.  In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will continue under the leadership of Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) as Chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray (WA) as Ranking Member.  All four committee leaders are well-versed in higher education policy and surrounded by experienced staff.  


Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) will take over as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as Rep. Hal Rogers (KY) is term limited in that position.  Rep. Nita Lowey (NY) will remain the Ranking Member.  Leadership of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will stay the same with Rep. Tom Cole (OK) as Chairman and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT) as Ranking Member. 

In the Senate, the retirement of Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD) triggered movement among the Democratic seats.  While Sen. Thad Cochran (MS) will be Committee Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) will take the lead for the Democrats after years of chairing the Judiciary Committee.  The leadership of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will remain unchanged with Sen. Roy Blunt (MO) as Chair, and Sen. Patty Murray (WA) as Ranking Member.


Rep. Kevin Brady (TX) will remain chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, with Rep. Richard Neal (MA) as the new Ranking Member, replacing Rep Sander Levin (MI) who did not run for the position this year.  The leadership of the Senate Finance Committee remains unchanged with Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) as Chairman, and Sen. Ron Wyden (OR) as Ranking Member, remains the same.


Leadership of the House Budget Committee is currently unsettled with current Chairman Tom Price (GA) leaving his seat to lead the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration.  Meanwhile, Democratic Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) was elected to the Senate.

The Senate Budget Committee is expected to remain the same with Sen. Mike Enzi (WY) as Chairman, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) as Ranking Member.

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