CHN: Who’s in Charge?

The 114th Congress convened on Tuesday, Jan. 6, with the Republicans controlling both chambers for the first time in eight years. Despite being the most diverse in history, this Congress is still 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and more than 90 percent Christian. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was reelected as Speaker of the House last Tuesday, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will maintain her role as Minority Leader. Roles flipped in the Senate, where former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will now be the Minority Leader, and former Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will take over the top spot. With some members retiring or losing their seats last year, and with the shift of control in the Senate, many committee rosters changed as well. Below is a rundown of the members of Congress who will lead the committees followed most closely by the Coalition on Human Needs.

House Budget Committee: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a social conservative and a physician by training who has repeatedly challenged the Affordable Care Act, will chair this committee. He has said he wants to eliminate the deficit in 10 years, give states more flexibility, build on past budgets authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) – budgets which would drastically cut human needs programs that keep people out of poverty and convert Medicaid and SNAP/food stamps into a block grant – and according to CQ possibly also include parts of Rep. Ryan’s plan to fight poverty, which would actually increase poverty by cutting spending on federal safety net programs. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will remain the ranking member, or top Democrat.

Senate Budget Committee: Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), a conservative who has been known occasionally to reach across the aisle for agreement on legislative proposals, will chair this committee. According to CQ, Sen. Enzi has a “Penny Plan” to balance the budget in five years by cutting a single penny off every dollar the government spends for each of five years. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, will be the new ranking member.


House Ways and Means Committee: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), former chair of the House Budget Committee, will now head this committee. In his new role, Rep. Ryan is expected to try to pass legislation that will cut taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. House Ways and Means also has jurisdiction over Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Unemployment Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and child welfare programs.  He is also expected to work closely with Rep. Tom Price, aligning the work of the two committees. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) will return to the spot of ranking member.

Senate Finance Committee: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the former ranking member of this committee, will take over the head spot. Sen. Hatch is also committed to lowering corporate taxes. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who previously chaired the committee in the last Congress, will now be the ranking member.

For more information on tax legislation, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.


House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) returns to his role as the head of this panel. He has a strong working relationship with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Senate panel. They worked closely together in crafting the FY15 federal spending package that passed Congress last December. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) will return to the position of ranking member.

Senate Appropriations Committee: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MI), who last served as the chair of this committee in 2007, returns to chair it again. He was reelected to his 7th term with votes from moderates and Democrats to beat a Tea Party primary challenger. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the former chair of the committee, will now be the ranking member.

Education and Labor:

House Education and the Workforce Committee: Rep. John Kline (R-MN) will return to his role as chair. He is reportedly working on a plan with his Senate counterpart to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act and roll back the federal government’s role in education. Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) will be the new ranking member, taking over for former Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who retired.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will be the new chair. According to the Washington Post, he called the Affordable Care Act “a historic mistake” and supports repealing it. In addition to wanting to change the No Child Left Behind Act, he has said he wants to update the Higher Education Act as well.


House Agriculture Committee: Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) will take over as the new chair. In the past, he has supported tougher work requirements for SNAP/food stamp recipients. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) will return as ranking member.

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) will be the new chair of this committee. Two decades ago, as chair of the House Agriculture Committee, then Rep. Roberts led a successful fight to prevent block-granting the food stamp program.  More recently, the Washington Post notes that Sen. Roberts has favored cuts to SNAP/food stamps, saying that the cuts included in the farm bill passed last May weren’t enough. Former Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will now be the ranking member.

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military spending
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