New Committee Chairmen Named on Capitol Hill

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday announced the new slate of committee chairmen for the next Congress, with several changes coming as the result of a domino effect caused by the election of two sitting Democratic senators to the White House.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is set to become the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the 111th Congress, giving her oversight of the nation's spy network. Feinstein came under criticism in the past two years from liberal activists opposed to her support of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and her aggressive support for domestic surveillance of alleged terrorists.

Feinstein's elevation to the Intelligence chairmanship was one of a handful of changes in leadership of the 20 Senate committees. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who often feuded with Republicans during his tenure atop the Intelligence panel, moves over to take the gavel at the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, overseeing key industries such as telecommunications, tobacco and fisheries.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) gave up the chairmanship at the commerce panel to take over the Appropriations Committee, putting him in charge of disbursing more than $1 trillion annually in federal spending. Inouye, 84, takes the gavel from Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who surrendered his Appropriations chairmanship amid health concerns. Byrd, 91, cited the election of President-elect Barack Obama and his campaign of "change" as the right time for him to step down.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is taking over for Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, is on a whirlwind tour of global hot spots, including Georgia, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) takes over as chairwoman of the committee on small business, which Kerry formerly chaired.

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