The new Congress gavels in amid a highly contentious budget showdown that has left the government partially closed for over two weeks. Democratic victories in House races in the midterm elections gave the lower chamber a Democratic majority of 235-199, and re-ushered in an era of split party control of the legislative branch. Hamodia has compiled a brief guide to the House leadership – some faces old, others new – in the 116th Congress.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 78 years old: Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, previously served as speaker – the first woman ever to do so – from 2007-2011. Pelosi, who has been in Congress since 1987, has served as the top Democrat in the House for more than a decade-and-a-half. Pelosi has withstood criticisms from within her ranks over Democratic electoral losses. She becomes the first member since the legendary Texas Democrat Rep. Sam Rayburn to return as Speaker after losing the position. Rayburn actually served three separate stints between 1940 and 1961.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), 79: Hoyer has served in Congress since 1981. He has been the second-highest ranking Democrat, behind Pelosi, since 2003. He represents a heavily Democratic leading district that includes Washington DC suburbs and parts of costal Maryland and is viewed as a loyalist to the party’s mainstream.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), 53: McCarthy, who represents portions of Central and Southern California, has been in Congress since 2007, serving as chief deputy whip, majority whip, and majority leader. He was considered a frontrunner to replace former Rep. John Boehner as Speaker, but stepped aside amid opposition from members associated with the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Since relatively early in the 2016 election, he has been viewed as a consistent supporter of President Donald Trump.
KEY COMMITTEES AND CHAIRPERSONS
Chairwoman: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., 81 years old
This powerful committee appropriates funding for most of the functions of the federal government. Lowey, whose district includes portions of the northern suburbs of New York City, has served in the House since 1989.
Ranking Member: Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), 75
Chairman: Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), 53
This committee’s jurisdiction includes funding and oversight of the Defense Department, and portions of the Energy Department.
Smith has served in the House since 1997.
In an interview recently with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Smith said he believes President Trump has the authority to build a border wall without congressional approval by declaring a national emergency. But Smith said he believes “the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘Where’s the emergency?’ … But beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars.”
Ranking Member: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), 60
Chairwoman: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), 80
Waters will chair the committee that oversees the banking, insurance, securities and housing industries. The 15-term congresswoman represents South Central Los Angeles. After her chairmanship was announced, Waters promised, “Make no mistake, come January in this committee, the days of this committee weakening regulations and putting our economy once again at risk of another financial crisis will come to an end.”
Ranking Member: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), 43
Energy and Commerce
Chairman: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), 67
This committee has jurisdiction over a broad array of issues, including health care; food, drug and cosmetic safety; environmental protection and climate change; clean air and water; energy policy; nuclear facilities; electronic communications, internet, data security; consumer protection; and interstate and foreign commerce.
Pallone has served in the House since 1988.
Ranking Member: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), 61
Chairman: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), 71
This committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to foreign aid, national security developments affecting foreign policy, war powers, treaties, peacekeeping, and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions, as well as arms control and disarmament issues.
Engel, whose district includes portions of the Bronx and Westchester, has been in Congress since 1989. He opposed former President and fellow Democrat Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, but once the deal was signed, he opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from it.
Ranking Member: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), 56
Chairman: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), 58: A fierce critic of President Donald Trump, Schiff will chair the committee with jurisdiction over intelligence operations, including the ability to investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Schiff has publicly clashed over the Trump-Russia investigation with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Trump ally who will serve as ranking member in the current Congress. In the last Congress, Nunes chaired the committee and Schiff was ranking member. Schiff has served in the House for 18 years.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), 45
Chairman: Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-N.Y.), 71: In addition to overseeing the administration of justice in the federal legal system, this committee is responsible for impeachment of federal officials. Some Democrats have already openly called for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, while most are preaching restraint until Special Counsel Robert Mueller releases the results of his Russia investigation.
In an interview on CNN last month, Nadler said that if it were proven that Trump directed hush-money payments in violation of campaign-finance laws, those would be “impeachable offenses,” but that “whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question.” In the same interview, Nadler said President Trump may be guilty of a number of wrongdoings – related to Russia, campaign finance violations and obstruction of justice – and that “all of these have to be looked at very seriously by the Congress, by the Special Counsel, and by the Justice Department, to see what actions we should then take.” Nadler said the previous, Republican-led Congress “tried to shield the president. The new Congress will not try to shield the president.”
Nadler, whose district includes portions of Manhattan and Brooklyn, has served in the House since 1992.
Ranking Member: Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), 52
Chairman: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), 67: Cummings, who has served in Congress since 1996, will chair the main House investigative committee. These include federal personnel, government management, accounting, finances, economy, and efficiency, as well as the Census. The committee is expected to conduct investigations on a wide range of issues related to the Trump administration, including the president’s conflicts of interests related to his businesses.
Asked last month, by CNN’s Lauren Fox, whether President Trump “is being influenced by a foreign government,” Cummings replied, “I don’t know, but all the evidence points to that. And that’s one of the things we want to look into.”
Ranking Member: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), 54
Ways and Means
Chairman: Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), 69: Neal will serve in the highly powerful position of chairman of the chief tax-writing committee in the House. The committee oversees revenue-raising laws like taxes and tariffs, as well as areas including Social Security, Medicaid and unemployment. Neal has served in the House since 1989. He has been a lead sponsor of legislation to prevent American companies from moving offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Ranking Member: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), 63