What "Winning the Senate" Means

Posted: Oct 23, 2014 1:11 PM

We've heard all the chatter about the chances of the GOP taking control of the U.S. Senate in the midterm elections a week from Tuesday.

But what, if that should happen, would that mean, in practice?

First of all, assuming Republicans end up with a net six seats (either through knocking off six Democrats in the elections, getting a few sitting Democrats to switch sides, or both) they will get to organize the Senate.

That means that a Republican - probably Mitch McConnell of Kentucky - will be the Majority Leader. The Majority Leader controls the Senate legislative calendar - he decides what bills and resolutions will come to the floor for a vote and when.

It will mean that Republicans will have at least one more member on every Committee and Subcommittee than Democrats.

Also, it means that a Republicans will chair every Committee and Subcommittee.

That, in turn, means that the staff of every Committee and Subcommittee will have more Republicans than Democrats which is a big deal when it comes to the amount of firepower the GOP can put behind investigations and legislation.

And, because there are 100 Senators that have to do the same amount of work as 435 House Members (only one bill goes to the President), Senate staffers often have a great deal of power and responsibility.

Reporter Donna Cassata of the Associated Press went through Committee by Committee and looked at who might chair each in a piece published on Wednesday.

Armed Services

Current Chairman: Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan)

New Chairman: Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)


Current Chairman: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland)

New Chairman: Sen. That Cochran (R-Mississipppi)


Current Chairman: Sen. Debbie Stabanow (D-Michigan)

New Chairman: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) assuming he wins re-election. If Roberts loses, then the New Chairman could be Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas)


Current Chairman: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington)

New Chairman: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)


Current Chairman: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia)

New Chairman: Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota)


Current Chairman: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana)

New Chairman: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Current Chairman: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California)

New Chairman: Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)


Current Chairman: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

New Chairman: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Foreign Relations

Current Chairman: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)

New Chairman: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)

Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

Current Chairman: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

New Chairman: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)

Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs

Current Chairman: Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware)

New Chairman: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin)


Current Chairman: Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vermont)

     New Chairman: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

John Thune taking over Senate Commerce would have sway over what elements of the outdated Telecommunications act of 1996 might be replaced by a bill that reflects smart phones, tablets, and nearly ubiquitous broadband access to the Internet that did not exist 18 years ago.

John McCain - with his well-known military history - will likely have a different view of projecting American military power than Carl Levin of Michigan.

Conservative Southern Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi would likely have a different set of Appropriations priorities than his predecessor Liberal Maryland Senator Barbara Milkulski.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski knows a great deal about drilling in ANWR - the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge - and might well put that high on the list of legislation to come out of the Energy Committee.

Does anyone doubt that the Committee on Environment might have a different slant being chaired by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe than it did under California Senator Barbara Boxer?

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson will likely spend a good deal of time digging into what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

And so on.

So, what does winning control of the Senate mean? Remember the mantra that Democrats giddily repeated during every appearance on every cable show after the re-election of 2012:

"Elections have consequences."