Congressional leadership changes feds should know about

Leadership is changing in six congressional committees with jurisdictions that could affect the way feds do business governmentwide.

One month after the election, it’s hard to look past the political drama that is the selection of the incoming President’s cabinet. But those aren’t the only leadership shake-ups in town. Some members of Congress won’t be returning in January, while others are moving up to bigger and better things.

Here are six congressional committees undergoing a change in leadership that could affect the way many feds do business.

House Budget Committee

Tom Price
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), current chairman of the House Budget committee, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price became chairman in 2015, after serving as vice-chair for the previous two years. He has been a member of the committee since 2011.

When he took over as chairman, his top priority was to create a budget that balances within the 10 year window, according to a press release. During his time as chairman, Price voted against the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, and for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), current vice chairman of the committee, is viewed as a likely replacement. He also currently serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.

In 2016, Rokita sponsored the Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act along with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), which would make new federal hires at-will employees, make it easier for feds to be fired, and  limit the availability of appeals, among other provisions. Rokita also voted in 2011 to extend the pay freeze on federal employees.

House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel

FILE - This April 3, 2013 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, speaks to a joint session of the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Heck on Monday, July 6, 2015 entered the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, setting in motion what could be one of the top Senate races of 2016. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison,File)
Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) is currently the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He was appointed chairman in 2015 by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, after serving on the subcommittee since 2011.

During his time in office, Heck has sponsored more legislation related to the armed forces than any other subject. The bills primarily revolve around veterans’ benefits reform.

In 2016, Heck lost his bid for a Senate seat. It’s not yet clear who will step up to replace him.

“It’s often a member that’s a little bit more junior that’s chairing the [Personnel] Subcommittee. That might be good, it could bring some fresh perspective,” Andrew Hunter, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Federal News radio in November.

House Veterans Affairs Committee

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) announced in March that he would be retiring this year. Miller has been chairman of the House Veterans Affairs since 2011, and has focused the vast majority of his legislative career on veterans’ issues.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) will replace Miller. Roe has served on the committee for several years, and has sponsored a significant amount of legislation pertaining to the VA in his career, including the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act , which just passed both chambers of Congress and is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.

“Under Roe’s leadership, I am confident the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will continue to serve veterans by setting the standard for congressional legislative and oversight accomplishments,” Miller said in a press release.

In addition, in July of 2015, House VA Committee Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) temporarily stepped down from her position due to a fraud indictment. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has served as acting ranking member since.

In November 2016, Brown then lost the Democratic primary for her district. Democratic Caucus elections will take place in January, but Josh Weisz, Takano’s communications manager, said Takano has put himself forward to continue in the position of ranking member. Takano has been a member of the committee since 2013, and also currently serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

Since 2013, Takano has sponsored 17 bills and resolutions related to helping veterans acquire education and employment.

While the House passed several smaller VA bills during the lame duck session, several controversial issues that Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald and veterans committees in both chambers of Congress have spent the past year debating have yet to receive closure.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a 30-year veteran of the Senate, determined that she would retire at the end of the 114th Congress, and did not seek re-election in 2016. Mikulski has served on the Senate Appropriations Committee since 1987, including as chairwoman in 2012.

Her replacement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been a member of the Senate even longer than Mikulski, having been first elected in 1974, which makes him the most senior senator. Until this point, he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies subcommittee.

He turned down the chairmanship of the Appropriations committee in 2012 following the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), saying he could do more good as chairman of the Judiciary committee. But the election of Donald Trump and the retirement of Mikulski have changed his perspective.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.)
Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is currently the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But the retirement of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) left the position of ranking member of the Environmental and Public Works Committee open. As Carper moves to fill that space, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will be moving up to take Carper’s old seat.

McCaskill has served in the Senate since 2007, including leading multiple subcommittees within the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, such as the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.

More than half of the legislation she has sponsored throughout her career has related to either government operations and politics or armed forces and national security. Two subjects that are particularly important to her are whistleblower protections and reducing waste through oversight and accountability.

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

The Senate Veterans Affairs committee is seeing some leadership changes too, although not as many as the House. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) exercised his seniority, claiming the position of chairman of the Senate VA committee. Doing so, he bumped Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) from the position.

Tester has served on the Committee on Veterans Affairs since he took office in 2007, and the majority of the legislation he has sponsored has dealt with veterans, including most recently the Improving Veterans Access to Care in the Community Act, which would increase veterans’ options among non-VA healthcare providers.

Tester also plans to introduce legislation in January to further efforts to “drain the swamp.” He recently announced the “Cleaning Up Washington’s Act,” which would limit former members of Congress and certain federal executives from becoming lobbyists for five years after they leave public service.

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