Congressional Committees wield significant power and influence over the legislative process, led by the Committee Chair and Ranking Member.

Ccbasics

As Congress enters spring, 50 members (43 reps and seven senators) have announced they would not seek re-election in 2022. There are 12 members who will retire at the end of the 117th Congress that currently hold committee leadership positions. Not only do these retirements reflect a loss of seniority and experience in important committees, they also pose an opportunity for significant change among the top levels of committee operations. Understanding how the composition of Congressional Committees may shift during the 118th Congress illuminates which members of Congress may take over a leading role on critical legislative issues.

Bookmark this page. Over the next few weeks, Leadership Connect will evaluate the impacts of retirements on committees.

*Policy statistics used in this piece encompass legislation from the 113th Congress through the present.

Senate Shake-Ups

The Senate is currently operating under a 50-50 party split. With the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats hold the majority (getting committee chairs), while Republicans hold the minority (with committee ranking members). The following analysis of committee leadership assumes the Democratic majority position in the 118th Congress.

Currently, seven senators have announced that they will not seek re-election in 2022 — one Democrat and six Republicans. All seven of these senators hold a committee leadership position, representing many upcoming changes at the top levels of senate committees. The Senate overall will maintain a considerable level of stability, as only 28 seats are up in 2022. Additionally, Senate Committee leadership positions are primarily determined by seniority, making predictions of succession reasonably accurate.

The most significant shift in senate committee leadership will be caused by changes in the leadership of both parties on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will then generate a chain reaction throughout multiple committees. Other shifts will occur among Republican committee leadership positions due to retirements.

Senate Appropriations Committee — 117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)Ranking Member, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

Who’s in line to take over discretionary spending legislation?

Leahy and Shelby will retire after the 117th Congress. It’s widely expected that the Appropriations Committee will be led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in the 118th Congress.

Murray is the second-highest ranking democratic committee member after Leahy. Collins ranks after Shelby and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who would not assume a committee ranking member position as the Senate Minority Leader. Murray has been the Democratic leader of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, since 2015. Collins has been the Republican leader of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, since 2011.

Potential Leadership And Past Legislation

Economics117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)13412
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)01521

 

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee 117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)Ranking Member, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Midwest Takes On Homeland Security

Portman will retire at the end of the 117th Congress. Following his departure, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is the most senior committee member and will take the Ranking Member position. Johnson was previously the republican leader of the Senate HSGAC Committee for six years. It is important to note that Johnson is also up for re-election this year. The issue of homeland security has moved up the ranks of importance due to current global events. The forthcoming retirement of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Russian attacks on Ukraine, and cyber attacks on the U.S., combined with the issue of voters’ rights means HSGAC’s leadership will have a busy 118th Congress.

Potential Leadership and Past Legislation

117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co- and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co- and Sponsored)
Homeland Security
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)161323
Government Operations
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)01330136

 

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)Ranking Member, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

HELP Is On The Way

Murray, chair of the HELP Committee, will vacate that position to become chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Next in line to be chair of the Senate HELP Committee is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders has been the Democratic leader of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security since 2011. Sanders is also currently chair of the Senate Budget Committee. If Sanders leaves the Senate Budget Committee to become Chair of the Senate HELP Committee, the senators in line are Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who is Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. This change would result in a broader shift among democratic committee leadership positions.

Additionally, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), current Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, is retiring at the 117th Congress. The likely successor to this position is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is currently Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Sen. Paul was formerly the Republican leader of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families for six years. With what feels like a new COVID-19 variant every month, mask mandates being lifted in schools, and more, the Senate HELP Committee will drive much of the policy in the 118th Congress, so leadership matters.

Potential Leadership and Past Legislation

Health117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)63836208
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)62520100

 

Education117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)1147104
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)25315

 

Labor117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)11919120
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)26626
Senate Armed Services Committee117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)Ranking Member, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Who Now Handles Response As Russia Invades Ukraine?

Inhofe recently said he will retire from congress at the end of 2022. Inhofe was re-elected to the senate in 2020, meaning that a special election will be held in Oklahoma to fill his seat for the remainder of his term until 2027. Additionally, his Ranking Member position on the Senate Armed Services Committee will have to be replaced at the beginning of 2023 through the regular seniority system.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is next in the line in terms of seniority, making him the most likely to take over the position. Wicker has served on the Senate Armed Services Committee since 2008 and has held multiple subcommittee leadership positions. Note, though, Wicker is currently Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. If he were to vacate this position, next in line would be Sen. John Thune (R-SD). Thune is currently unable to serve as Ranking Member due to his position as Senate Minority Whip. This would pass the role of Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The shift in leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the loss of Inhofe’s years of experience, comes as the committee is faced with the great responsibility of overseeing the U.S. military response and Department of Defense operations in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as any other resulting conflicts.

Potential Leadership and Past Legislation

Defense117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)5161039
Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)Ranking Member, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Ranking on Banking: Odds Favor Tim Scott

Toomey will retire at the end of the 117th Congress. Next in seniority is Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who is Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. Crapo was previously the Republican leader of the Senate Banking Committee for four years before taking his current leadership position on the Senate Finance Committee, making it unlikely for him to return to the banking committee. Next in line for the Ranking Member position would then be Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee. Scott has held a subcommittee leadership position on the Senate Banking Committee since 2015.

Potential Leadership and Past Legislation

 117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co- and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co- and Sponsored)
Finance
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)7192289

 

Housing and Community development
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)01217

 

Senate Rules and Administration Committee117th Congress
Chair, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)Ranking Member, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Why Blunt’s Post Could Be Passed to Fischer

Blunt will retire at the end of the 117th Congress. Sen. Cruz is next to take over the Ranking Member position based on seniority. Cruz has been a member of the Senate Rules Committee since 2013. However, it is possible that Cruz may assume the Ranking Member position on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. This would pass the Senate Rules Committee leadership position to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. With Capito unlikely to take the position, next in line is Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE). Sen. Fischer has been a member of the Senate Rules Committee since 2017.

Potential Leadership and Past Legislation

Rules 117th Congress Sponsored117th Congress Total (Co and Sponsored)Since 2013 SponsoredSince 2013 Total (Co and Sponsored)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)312773
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)09060

 With the current challenges facing the U.S. and the significant importance of congressional committees in the legislative process, the loss of Senate leadership to retirements will result in a substantial shift throughout the chamber. The 118th Congress needs strong leadership in all senate committee Chair and Ranking Member positions. It would seem those in line are prepared to move operations forward.

Emma Somers

Emma Somers

Research Analyst