Potential Leadership Changes in Congress After Election

While the exact makeup of next year’s 112th Congress will be anyone’s guess until Tuesday, one thing is for certain: across-the-board changes to committee leadership if Republicans win control of either the House or the Senate.

Of course, as has been the case for the past 100 years, committee chairmanships are always awarded with a bit of surprise, regardless of which party controls the House or Senate. Here’s a look at what would happen at some youth-relevant committees and subcommittees if leadership is awarded along the lines of tenure.


Many political prognosticators see a GOP takeover of the House of Representatives as achievable. Republicans need to wrestle control of 39 seats away from the Democrats in order to lead that chamber. Though committee chairmanships are always anyone’s bet, the makeup of every single committee will change under Republican control.

Education and Labor

The House Committee on Education and Labor, currently chaired by California Democrat George Miller may be led by Chairman John Kline of Minnesota’s second district in the next congress.  This is perhaps the most important committee for youth work right now, because it controls major reauthorizations of the Workforce Investment Act and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Delaware’s Mike Castle. the ranking Republican at Ed/Labor’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education (now chaired by Dale Kildee (Mich.), will not be returning to Congress following his loss to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s Senate Republican Primary, so the future chairmanship of that committee still must be determined.

The Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities will probably see Todd Platts (Penn.) as chair under a Republican speaker, replacing Democrat Carolyn McCarthy. Finally, for the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness, Georgia Republican Tom Price may become chairman, replacing Rob Andrews (N.J.).


The House Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), could be led by Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas) if party control changes hands.

The main youth-serving subcommittee is Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, which is currently led by Bobby Scott (Va.). Scott is the author of the Youth PROMISE Act, which would fund community-driven plans to prevent violence and lead young people on paths away from violence.  Louis Gohmert (Texas), a former judge, would likely succeed Scott.

Ways and Means

John Linder, current ranking Republican  on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, is not seeking another term, so leadership is anyone’s guess if the House changes hands. If the Democrats hold on, it will be current chair and author of the Fostering Connections Act Jim McDermott.


Sitting chairman and current Appropriations chair Dave Obey (Wis.) is not seeking another term. If the Republicans take control he will likely be succeeded by Jerry Lewis (Calif.); if it’s the Democrats, perhaps Norm Dicks (Wash.) assuming he wins next week.

For the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Nita M. Lowey will likely become the new chairperson if Democrats keep control of the House. Todd Tiahrt, that subcommittee’s ranking Republican, will not be returning to Congress following a loss in a Senate primary.



Most analysts on both sides of the aisle believe it is unlikely that the GOP will regain control of the Senate. But if the long-shot bet hits, here is what the committee leadership might look like.


The Senate Judiciary committee, currently chaired by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, will likely be taken over by its ranking Republican member, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, if the Senate were to switch hands. The subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, chaired by outgoing Pennsylvania Republican-cum-Democrat Arlen Specter, will have a new chair either way next Congress. If the Republicans win the 10 seats necessary to take the Senate, it’ll likely be Lindsay Graham (S.C.).

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)

Michael Enzi (Wyo.) will likely supplant Tom Harkin (Iowa) as chair of the HELP Committee if the Republicans take control. Enzi, one of the strongest allies of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, served as HELP’s chairman from 2005 through 2007.  The Subcommittee on Children and Families is chaired, at present, by outgoing Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. No matter which party controls the Senate in January, that subcommittee will need a new chairman; likely Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) or Judd Gregg (N.H.) if the Senate switches parties.


The Senate Finance Committee’s chair would likely be Chuck Grassley (Iowa), replacing Max Baucus, under Republican control. The Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, now chaired by Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) will likely be chaired by Kansas Republican Pat Roberts.


On Senate Appropriations, now chaired by Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Thad Cochran of Tennessee will return to his spot as chairman in a Republican senate. He previously chaired Appropriations from 2003 through 2005, and remains that committee’s ranking Republican


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