The House and Senate committees responsible for aviation are going to get a shakeup in the wake of the Nov. 2 election. Several key questions are looming about leadership roles on these committees. The defeat of Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) leaves an obvious gap for Democrats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but other changes are also possible.
Here are some of the things to watch in the House:
Who will fill Oberstar’s shoes as the lead Democrat on the House T&I Committee? By extension, this person will also be the Democrats top aviation policy maker – but will not wield as much power from the minority side. The top three Democrats by seniority (aside from Oberstar) all survived the election – Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.). Rahall is the current vice-chair of the committee, and observers believe he will be ranking member next year. However, that assumes he will give up his role as senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee.
Costello is the current chairman of the aviation subcommittee, but it is uncertain if he will be its ranking member. There has been speculation that he may take a leadership role on a different committee. He is the second-ranked Democrat on the Science and Technology Committee, and current Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is retiring.
On the Republican side, T&I Ranking Member Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) has stated his desire to chair the full committee. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) is the current ranking member of the aviation subcommittee, and it is likely he will take over the as subcommittee chairman.
The leadership of the Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee will also be important. Current Ranking Member Tom Latham (R-Iowa) is expected to become chairman.
And there are also questions in the Senate:
Current aviation subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is retiring, so a replacement will be needed. No decision has been made yet, but one rumor suggests Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is a possibility.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is the current ranking member of this subcommittee, but will he want to continue in this role as his influence grows?
The leadership of the Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee is up in the air. With votes still being tallied, it is not known if current Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will prevail. Murray holds a slight lead, and she is expected to win. The final tally may not be known until next week.