Looking Ahead to the 113th Congress, Changes Coming to Key Committees

November 16, 2012

Government Relations Update - Defense

In the coming weeks, each caucus will begin making committee assignments for the 113th Congress, which could include possible key changes to the leadership of the House and Senate Defense committees. Each caucus will make committee assignments in the coming weeks, and positions will be finalized in early January.

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) will remain Chairman, and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) will also keep his post. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) will continue to lead the committee in the 113th Congress. On the Republican side, the current Ranking Member of SASC, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is term-limited by the rules of the Republican caucus. Sen. McCain, who has been the top Republican lawmaker on the committee since 2006, has not yet stated whether or not he plans to seek a waiver to remain ranking member. If he does not receive a waiver, Sen. McCain will likely be replaced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the second most senior Republican on the committee. In order to become ranking member of SASC, Sen. Inhofe will have to relinquish his current post as ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which he is expected to do. In his position on SASC, Sen. McCain has been one of the more vocal critics of the Obama Administration’s military policies. Sen. Inhofe, who has also taken issue with some of the Administration’s policies, has said he is concerned about the Administration’s planned DOD budget cuts for the next decade. Should he take over as Ranking Member, he has indicated that he would focus on preventing a “potential hollowing out of the forces” caused by the proposed cuts. Beyond the leadership changes at the full committee level, there are also various subcommittee chairmanships on both the HASC and SASC that are currently undecided.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) is expected to remain chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Ranking Member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) is retiring this year. In line to replace Rep. Dicks is Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who has the seniority claim, but Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) could make plays for the post. Regarding the Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D), the current subcommittee chairman, Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), is term-limited, but he may seek a waiver to continue on in his position. If Young does not receive a waiver, he will likely be replaced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). On the Democratic side, both Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) are in the running for the HAC-D ranking member spot. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) will remain chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as the Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D), while Republican rules will force Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to step aside in favor of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Sen. Cochran is expected to keep his post as the Chairman of SAC-D.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) is expected to remain chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) is retiring from Congress, leaving the committee to either Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) or Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is expected to be the next chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) stepping down in order to take the gavel of the Senate Budget Committee. On the Republican side, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is term-limited and is expected to relinquish his position as ranking member to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Senate Likely to Consider Defense Authorization during Lame-Duck Session

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY2013 NDAA) will likely be considered on the Senate floor during the lame-duck session of Congress. Discussions are currently ongoing with regard to possible amendments, of which there could be many. If there is not an agreement to limit amendments, it could jeopardize the Senate’s chances of completing work on the bill. The SASC approved its bill in May, authorizing $639 billion in defense spending for FY13. The House version of the bill, which was also passed in May, would authorize $643 billion in spending. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor this week that he expects the NDAA to be considered after Thanksgiving and that there will be an open amendment process. This timeline would allow for for debate on the Senate floor in late November and a House and Senate conference of the bill in early December. Congress has passed a Defense Authorization bill for the past fifty-one consecutive years, and members and staff are confident that they will pass a bill this year.

If the NDAA is considered on the Senate floor, sequestration will likely be a contentious issue during the debate, as will provisions regarding Iran and detainee policy. Other controversial policy riders include same-sex marriage on military bases, the military’s ability to conduct abortions, and the Defense Department’s use of alternative fuels.

Petraeus Testifies before House Intelligence Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Former CIA Director Ret. Gen. David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill today in closed-door, classified hearings before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Prior to the hearing, lawmakers said they were particularly interested in hearing about Petraeus’s trip to Libya following the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“He’s one of the only folks who’s actually been on the ground that’s going to be testifying,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “So it’s going to be pretty interesting, I think, to hear what he found.”

Petraeus testified that the CIA knew the attacks in Benghazi were a terrorist act and not a spontaneous demonstration, as some initially reported.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) said the confusion over terrorist attacks versus demonstrations at Benghazi could have resulted from a difference between classified and unclassified talking points.

“There may have been confusion with the unclassified talking points. … Perhaps there’s greater clarity in the classified talking points,” Langevin told reporters. “There were perhaps some subtleties that were used that may have been understood by some to mean one thing, where others may have had a different understanding of words — for example, 'extremist' versus 'terrorist.'"

Republicans are also calling on the Obama Administration to produce the report Petraeus compiled following his trip to Libya.

“I’m concerned that there’s any reluctance on the part of the White House to pass that report along,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said. “That is, in my view, required by the law. We should’ve seen it already. … This is not the first instance where there have been questions about why they held on to things that the law says the House and Senate committees should be able to see.”

Quote of the Week

“We have to do it now because it changes policy toward our fighting men and women around the world. It does a lot of good things for them.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking on the Senate floor about the importance of passing a defense authorization bill.