The House Majority Leader race and Appropriations Update

On Tuesday June 10 Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his primary to Tea Party candidate, David Brat in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Since the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader were created in 1899 during the 56th Congress, no Majority Leader has lost a primary election.

House leadership positions are voted in by rank-and-file party members in the House and they facilitate party coordination in scheduling and passing legislation. Additionally, they act as representatives of party message during floor proceedings and oversee committee Chairmen/women in the House.

Following his primary loss, Representative Cantor decided to step down as Majority Leader effective July 31, 2014. Thus far Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Majority Whip of the House and close friend and ally of both Representative Cantor and the office of Majority Leader is seen as the likely next Majority Leader. This shuffle creates the potential for an opening for the position of Majority Whip. A recent National Journal article indicates that Representatives Roskam (IL), Scalise (LA), and Stutzman (IN) will be seeking the Whip’s position. These internal races will be taking place with the backdrop of the midterm elections in all 535 House Members’ districts taking place in November.

Additionally, these internal elections create the possibility for delayed floor action on important legislation including appropriations which could result in passage of a short-term CR or a large omnibus appropriations package.

Notable Departures of the 113th Congress

With the midterm elections just over six months away there are a number of notable retirements in Congress. To date nine Senators and 49 Representatives have decided to not run for reelection.

Notable in these retirements are the years of seniority and institutional knowledge leaving both chambers. A number of important Members will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA):

Harkin of Iowa will be retiring after five terms in the Senate. He is the current Chairman of the important Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee. This committee is responsible for overseeing the aforementioned including all discretionary health policy –anything that is not Medicare/Medicaid related. He is also an appropriator serving as chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee tasked with funding those important agencies and programs. This dual role of authorizing legislation and appropriating the funds for those authorized programs have helped to make him an effective leader in the Senate.

Representative Dave Camp (R-MI):

Camp of Michigan will be retiring after 12 terms in the House. He is the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. This Committee has the constitutional privilege of introducing any revenue generating legislation giving the Chairman a significant amount of discretion over federal legislation in both chambers. In addition to taxation and some trade matters the Ways and Means Committee has oversight over all mandatory health policy meaning most matters dealing with Medicare or Medicaid.

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK):

Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will be leaving the Senate early, due to a medical condition, having served two years into his second term.  “Dr. No,” as he is sometimes affectionately called, has adopted the role of dogged watchdog of the purse-strings. He has used the many rights and privileges he has as a Senator to demand cuts and request that legislation meet “pay-go” and statutory budget restrictions.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA):

Waxman of California will be leaving after serving 20 terms in the House of Representatives across nine Presidential terms. In addition to a wealth of institutional knowledge he is taking with him, he is one of the strongest Democratic voices on climate change. As Chairman of the important Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Waxman overseas energy policy as well as health policy from the FDA, to public health programs to Medicaid and some Medicare policy. He was instrumental in helping then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi with crafting and aiding the passage of the Affordable Care Act in the House in late 2009.

Representative George Miller (D-CA):

Miller of California is another important leader who will be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress.  Also from California and having served 20 years like Mr. Waxman, Representative Miller leaves the Chairmanship of the House Education Labor and Workforce Committee. In addition to chairing an important committee he is close friends with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The chamber will lose an able member of the leadership.