Republicans gained control of the Senate on Tuesday, which means the GOP will chair the committees in that chamber of Congress next year.
With their new authority, the Republican leaders are likely to ramp up oversight of the Obama administration, similar how their colleagues in the House have probed the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting scandal and the Benghazi attack. Expect more subpoenas and investigations, except from both chambers in the future.
The changes in committee control will also put Republicans in a stronger position to advance legislation that would roll back some of the Obama administration’s policies, including those dealing with the environment and health care.
Let’s take a look at some of the key Senate panels and the potential candidates to head them once power shifts to the GOP next year.
Armed Services Committee
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, is perhaps the strongest candidate to chair the panel next year. He is one of the most active voices in Congress when it comes to issues that concern the military.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is the current ranking member and a likely successor for the chairmanship during the next session of Congress. He would be eligible to lead the powerful panel for six years under the GOP’s self-imposed term limits, which restrict how long a single lawmaker can head a committee.
Environment and Public Works Committee
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is a logical choice to lead the panel, since he chaired it for four years before Republicans lost the Senate majority in 2007.
Inhofe has been an outspoken critic of the movement to curb climate change, which he described as “global warming alarmism” during a U.N. summit in 2011. He has also opposed cap-and-trade legislation aimed at limiting carbon emissions.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is the ranking member of the panel, and he has a strong chance of becoming its chairman next year. He has been a vocal critic of the IRS and the Obama administration’s plans to implement stricter rules on the political activities of tax-exempt nonprofit groups.
Hatch also has experience leading Senate panels. He chaired the Judiciary Committee from 2003 until 2005 and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 1981 until 1987.
Foreign Relations Committee
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is a likely candidate to take over the chairmanship, since he is the current ranking member of the panel. His is not guaranteed to assume the top role, however, considering that some of his Republican colleagues have accused him of being too moderate, according to a Defense One analysis.
Corker has criticized the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State, but he helped author a bill to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria. He voted to authorize a similar program in September.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is one of the more likely candidates to chair the panel. Although he is still in his first term, he is the third most senior Republican on the committee, behind retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. John McCain, who is more likely to chair the Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) would be in line for the chairmanship if he was not retiring. Instead, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) will be a top candidate for the position.
Burr has expressed strong support for the controversial post-9/11 surveillance activities of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. He said in March that public intelligence hearings should never take place, with the exception of nomination hearings.
Sen. James Risch, the third most senior member of the panel, is the next logical choice for the chairmanship if the leadership role does not go to Burr.
Veterans Affairs Committee
Burr is also the current ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, so he may face a tough choice between chairing that panel or the intelligence committee.
Six Democratic women currently serve as chairs among the 16 standing Senate committees, but that will change with the shift in power next year.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is the ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, and she could potentially succeed Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) once the GOP takes control next year.
Washington Post reporter Nia-Malika Henderson noted in a Fix article this week that Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) are likely to head subcommittees, but she said the latter two lawmakers are unlikely to chair committees, since they are still in their first terms.
Chairmanships generally go to lawmakers with more seniority, making an exception for Ayotte and Fischer could help the party repair its image among women.