Election Means New Leaders on Aging Policy
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Election Means New Leaders on Aging Policy

November 12, 2012

Election defeats, retirements, and committee leadership term limits mean there will be some changes at the top of Congressional committees that oversee programs and benefits for older adults next year.

Thanks to the election, there will be at least 81 new Representatives and 12 new Senators in the 113th Congress that convenes in January.

Not all of the freshman class are new faces. Six of the freshman Senators currently serve in the House of Representatives, and nine of the incoming House members previously served in that chamber.

Five House races are still undecided, and finalizing the results could take weeks.

Committee leadership changes

Here's what we're watching in terms of committee leadership:

Senate Special Committee on Aging

The current chair, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), is retiring. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is next in line in seniority, with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Casey (D-PA) also possible replacements. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is not expected to remain as the committee’s Ranking Member, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) next in line.

As a special committee, the Aging Committee does not have legislative authority, but it does conduct in-depth investigations of issues and oversight of programs. It provides an important platform for spotlighting the needs of older adults and the ways programs are succeeding or should be improved.

Budget Committees

The current chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), is retiring, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to replace him. The chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), is facing a term limit, but he’s expected to receive a waiver to continue in this role.

The Budget Committees are responsible for crafting annual budget resolutions to establish overall spending limits.

Appropriations Committees

These committees have jurisdiction over all annual federal funding decisions.

The Ranking Member of the House Committee, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) is retiring, and Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) are vying for the spot. Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) lost his bid for the Senate and won’t be returning as chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, whose jurisdiction includes Older Americans Act (OAA) programs, falls prevention, Senior Corps, and other social services.

Changes also are expected on the Senate Committee, including the possible ascension of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) as full committee Ranking Member if Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) doesn’t receive a waiver of his term limit on this leadership spot. These changes and retirements put Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) next in line for the Labor-HHS Subcommittee Ranking spot.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee

This committee has jurisdiction over OAA, LIHEAP, workforce and job training issues, and a host of other social service programs, and shares jurisdiction over health care issues.

Ranking Member Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) is also facing term limits, and the next in line in terms of seniority is Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). If Sen. Alexander does assume this role, as well as Ranking Member of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, he would join Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) as a leader on both panels with jurisdiction over authorizing and funding many of the community services that the aging network and seniors depend on.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee

Current chair Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) is retiring, with Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Charles Boustany (R-LA) possible replacements. Ranking Member Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) lost his seat to a fellow Democrat, and either Rep. Jim McDermitt (D-WA) or Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) is likely to take the slot. 

The subcommittee will be very active on Medicare reform issues.

House Financial Services Committee

Current chair Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is term limited, and it’s expected that Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the current vice chair, would move up. Rep. Hensarling will have to give up his spot in the House leadership, which is setting up a race to replace him as Republican Conference Chair.

Another notable change on the committee is that Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), chair of the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, which oversees Housing Counseling and the Section 202 program, lost her re-election bid.

Expect additional changes as the domino effect from committee leadership term limits kicks in. Once the 113th Congress has convened, check our Key Congressional Committees page for updated rosters, including subcommittee chairs.




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