U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol

A new Congress on Capitol Hill will bring both opportunities and challenges for cattle producers, with a flip to Democratic control in the Senate bringing widespread changes to committee leadership.

The Senate run-off races in Georgia tipped the  balance of power to 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Two seats are held by Independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, but they caucus with Democrats and frequently vote with them, said Tanner Beymer, director of government affairs and market regulatory policy for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

If the Senate is tied in a vote, Vice President Kamala Harris will be the tie-breaker, he said during a webinar on Thursday.

“So you can look to the Democrats to have, technically have, control of the body,” he said.

The two new most powerful senators in the current make-up are moderates Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, because the other party can get their vote, he said.

The change in power in the Senate will likely bring changes to committee leadership. NCBA is expecting Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to chair environment and public works and Manchin to chair energy and natural resources.

“For all the issues we engage with that committee, that’s a pretty good sign. We’ve established a very good relationship with Sen. Manchin and his team with the E&R committee,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is expected to chair the finance committee, a powerful and coveted position, he said.

“Any time that there are trade deals that are brought up, the finance committee is the one that considers that as well as a lot of tax bills that we can expect to see in the Biden administration,” he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will become the president pro tempore, is set to chair the appropriations committee.

NCBA expects Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to chair the agriculture committee.

“She’s very challenging on cattle issues. Coming from the state of Michigan, she has a very high specialty crop emphasis,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was the ranking member of the judiciary committee in the last Congress, is set to take a fall.

In the last days of the committee hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Feinstein said some nice things about Republican committee chairman Lindsay Graham, he said.

“Just to show you how partisan Washington has become, she will not be allowed to move into the committee chairman position on judiciary for that reason. And so because of that that’s going to cause some fluctuations in Senate leadership,” he said.

There are three things to keep in mind on that front, he said.

Number one is Senate seniority, he said, adding that everything in the chamber is done by seniority.

Another thing is committee hierarchy. Not all committees are ones senators want to serve on. Everyone wants a piece of the really big and awesome committees, he said.

The last thing is ambition.

“Some of these senators are well into their 80s. They don’t necessarily have the chops or desire to go and be pit bulls anymore,” he said.

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