Here's a look at the key committee changes expected in the House of Representatives:
While the current Chairman of the Armed Service's committee has announced his Presidential intentions, the current ranking member, Ike Skelton (D – MO) is ready to take control of this influential committee, especially in a time of war. Skelton is by no means a liberal member of the House; he is pro-gun, pro-death penalty, and while he is critical of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, Skelton is an outspoken supporter of the troops as a whole. Look for Democrats to showcase a Chairman Skelton as being tough on national security and a pro-troop check on the Bush administration's continued operation in Iraq.
Ranking Democrat John Conyers (D – MI) is poised to take over the Judiciary Committee. One key thing to look for here is the issue of immigration. Current Chairman James Sensenbrenner championed the case for more secure borders and against amnesty. With Conyers in power there is a better chance for a citizenship based immigration bill. Conyers, who is African American, is also concerned with voting rights issues and has proposed a national health insurance program (pretty unlikely regardless of who is in the majority).
Ways and Means:
The Ways and Means Committee is where all tax legislation originates and is historically very powerful. Ranking Democrat Charlie Rangel (D – NY), who is also African American, is expected to take over. Rangel was vocally opposed to the Bush tax cuts and will likely change the committee's agenda dramatically. Leading up to Election Day Republicans have pointed to Rangel as one of the reasons why they should vote Republican this year. As one top Republican told me, "Rangel would re-introduce all the same backward, suffocating tax policies that were stifling our economy before a Republican majority arrived."
While still a young Committee, the Homeland Security Committee has come to the forefront of the House as Secretary Chertoff took a lot of heat for the department's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Ranking member Bennie Thompson, an African American from Mississippi, is in line to take over the committee from current chairman Rep. Peter King (R – NY). Thompson has spent his time on the committee focusing on communication issues for first responders as well as vocal criticism for the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Look for this Committee to focus on the Homeland Security's process of awarding contracts under Democratic control.
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct:
After all of my reporting on the Ethics Committee's investigation into the Mark Foley scandal, the Committee's report on the matter will likely become irrelevant. Chairman Doc Hastings (R – WA) and Ranking Member Howard (D – CA) work very well together and have a number of outstanding investigations currently underway. In addition to the Mark Foley matter, they are currently investigating the bribery accusations against Rep. William Jefferson (D – LA) after 90,000 dollars was found in his freezer. If the House changes hands, you can expect to see this committee continue its work on ongoing investigations; Berman and Hastings have a very close and respectful working relationship.
Congressman Henry Waxman, a 32-year member of the House, is outspoken on the role of Congress in providing checks and balances on the executive branch. In his time as the ranking member of this committee he has initiated a number of investigations that have stalled under the Republican control. Look for a lot of hearings and reports to come from this committee if the Democrats win control of the House.