Confirmations, conservative agenda on tap for GOP panels

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2016 11:57 AM
Confirmations, conservative agenda on tap for GOP panels

WASHINGTON (AP) — Confirming Donald Trump's presidential Cabinet tops the immediate agenda for the Senate committees and their Republican chairmen, who then will focus on fulfilling long-sought goals by implementing a conservative agenda.

The Senate GOP hasn't officially selected its committee leaders, but this is who is expected to hold the top spots:

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APPROPRIATIONS: Longtime Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran chairs the panel, which tries to work on a bipartisan basis while drafting 12 annual agency budget bills. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is the new top Democrat.

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FINANCE: Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch stays at the helm as the powerful panel tackles two major overhauls: taxes and the health care law. First up are confirmation hearings for Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs executive cast by Democrats as the "foreclosure king." Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is the top Democrat.

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ARMED SERVICES: Arizona Sen. John McCain leads the panel and the committee's oversight of the military. The panel will probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and oversee the confirmation of Trump's pick to lead the Defense Department, retired Gen. James Mattis. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed will continue as the committee's top Democrat.

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INTELLIGENCE: North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr leads the committee, which oversees the CIA and the intelligence community and likely will take the lead in examining Russian interference in the election. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is the new top Democrat on the panel.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS: Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker chairs the committee, which is conducting broad oversight of developments in Syria and Iran. The panel will conduct its own inquiry into Russian hacking and hold confirmation hearings for Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO and Trump's choice for secretary of state. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin is the top Democrat.

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JUDICIARY: Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley leads the panel, which will hold confirmation hearings for whomever Trump picks to fill the Supreme Court seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia. The committee also will hold hearings on Trump's pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the incoming top Democrat.

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BUDGET: Wyoming GOP Sen. Mike Enzi chairs the panel, which produces a budget outline to shape follow-up legislation, including the repeal of Obama's health law and efforts by majority Republicans to cut the deficit. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., leads panel Democrats.

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BANKING, HOUSING AND URBAN AFFAIRS: Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is in line to become chairman of the panel, which is expected to consider changes to the Dodd-Frank law enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is the leading Democrat.

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COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION: South Dakota Sen. John Thune will continue as chairman of the panel, which has a broad jurisdiction that reaches from communications to oceans to sports. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is ranking Democrat.

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ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is chairwoman of the committee, which oversees public lands, conservation, mining and national parks. Murkowski is focused on oil and gas extraction issues important to her home state. The top Democrat is Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.

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ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS: Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming is the new chairman of the panel and staunchly agrees with Trump that many of the regulations put forth by President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency need to be rolled back. The committee would also oversee an infrastructure package to rebuild the nation's aging roads, bridges and airports, if Trump decides that remains a priority. Delaware Sen. Tom Carper is the new ranking Democrat.

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HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS: Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander heads the committee and will lead efforts to repeal the nation's health care law. Washington Sen. Patty Murray is the top Democrat.

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AGRICULTURE: Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is chairman and could oversee efforts to trim the nation's food stamp program, if House Republicans decide to move forward with an overhaul. The committee will also start working on a new five-year farm bill, as the current farm law expires in 2018. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow is the top Democrat.

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HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson heads the committee that oversees government operations and the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson is unlikely to launch any investigations with Trump in the White House. Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri is the panel's new top Democrat.

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RULES AND ADMINISTRATION: Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt led the Rules panel in the previous Congress but may be booted by another, more senior senator. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has seniority over Blunt and is giving up his chairmanship on the Banking panel because he is term-limited. One of the committee's duties is to plan and preside over Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be the top Democrat.

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SMALL BUSINESS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is in line to lead the panel. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is the top Democrat.

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VETERANS AFFAIRS: Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson is chairman of the panel, which has overseen problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Montana Sen. Jon Tester leads panel Democrats.

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Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.