Election Changes Congressional Makeup

While the 2012 election may appear to have preserved the current Washington status-quo, political insiders are quick to point out that the final election night results have shaken up several congressional committee, including the ag committees in both houses.

Heading into election night, the Democratic Party commanded a slim lead in the Senate and controlled the White House, while the Republican Party enjoyed a sizeable majority in the House of Representatives. After the election, very little appears to have changed. The Democrats picked up 3 seats in the Senate, expanding their existing lead, retained control of the White House, and picked up a small number of House seats, but not enough to take back control.

To political insiders, however, election night brought significant institutional changes. In the House, several retirements and the defeat of several incumbents has opened up at least eight seats on the House Agriculture Committee (the chair and the ranking member remain safe). In the Senate, the resignation or defeats of Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, Herb Kohl, and Dick Lugar leave several open seats on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

While this may not seem like a major change to political outsiders, the loss of experienced, veteran legislators (especially in the Senate), could hinder efforts to pass a new farm bill. New committee member, in addition to having to get up to speed on Senate business, will not have the working relations that more experienced members had with their colleagues and may be in a weakened position to negotiate votes and extract political favors.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer