Congressional Committee Assignments

One of the older truisms routinely applied to politicians is, “Where you stand is where you sit.” In other words, their ideology flows clearly from their life experience.

And on Capitol Hill, there is this corollary: “Where you sit is what you do.” That neatly summarizes the importance of committee assignments in the lives of so many lawmakers.

That’s one reason why dozens sought coveted openings on the panel, and half of the party’s eight available seats went to people already contemplating expensive 2016 campaigns to hold on in purple districts : Scott Tipton of Colorado, newcomer Bruce Poliquin of Maine, and comeback 2014 winners Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Robert Dold of Illinois.

It makes intuitive sense that a pair of seats on Energy and Commerce went to lawmakers from states that boast booming oil and natural gas economies but no current panel representation: Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Standing committees can be combined or discontinued but most of them have been around for many years.

Standing committees also conduct investigations, such as the Senate Banking Committee's investigation of President Bill Clinton's Whitewater investments.Its 435 seats make specialization something close to a job requirement, so committee membership takes on outsize importance in driving each member’s legislative priorities and perceived areas of expertise — and in many cases fundraising focus as well.That helps explain why campaigning for a good assignment is an essential focus during every newly elected member’s two-month transition to office, and why the party leaders act as the gatekeepers of membership. Because of statewide constituencies, each senator has a vested interest in becoming familiar with several different areas of public policy.What immediately stands out is how virtually all the plum postings went to members of the establishment conservative wing — a further sign that, four years after the tea party wave brought the Republicans back to power in the House, the majority’s leadership sees no need to reward those still in the once-pivotal camp of confrontationalists .It’s easy to understand wanting a seat on Ways and Means in almost any year, and especially when the time appears ripe for a corporate tax overhaul.More superficially surprising is how the first openings were claimed by two of the seven Republicans from Indiana, although both postings make sense in other ways. Brooks already has been manifested in her freshman term assignments to both the Ethics and Benghazi committees , while Larry Bucshon gave up his cardiovascular surgery practice so he could come to Congress in hopes of being a player on health care policy.Each of the Appropriations assignments seems to have some ready logic.There’s only the slimmest chance the GOP will realize its goals for rolling back federal regulation of Wall Street.But that’s not going to stop the commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies, asset managers and even payday lenders from giving generously in hopes of making double-sure Financial Services doesn’t change its mind.But the Mountain State hasn’t had an appropriator in its delegation since the decade began.Two others are longtime senior staffers who successfully maneuvered to take the committee seats their predecessors held for decades: David Jolly, the late C. Bill Young’s successor in Florida, and David Young, elected to the Iowa seat left open by the retirement of Tom Latham.


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