Key U.S. Senate Committees Organize in the 113th Congress

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

After each election, the composition of Congress changes, as do the congressional committees. In this issue of The Advocate, we will focus on explaining the new makeup of the U.S. Senate committees that have jurisdiction over issues that are important to AVMA.

Senate Committee on Agriculture
There were no significant changes to the 20-member Senate Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over every facet of the nation’s agricultural industry, both domestic and overseas, including operations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its various sub-agencies. While Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) remains the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) replaces Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) as the ranking member. Three members retired and one member left for another committee assignment. The committee’s new members are Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and William Cowan (D-Mass.).

The Senate Agriculture Committee has already introduced a version of the farm bill reauthorization. It is anticipated that the committee will mark up the legislation this spring. AVMA supports several key provisions in the bill, namely:

  • a new competitive veterinary services grant program to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services;
  • the establishment of a foundation for food and agricultural research;
  • assurances that the National Animal Health Laboratory Network will be adequately funded; and
  • extensions for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank; the Competitive, Special and Facilities Research Grant; the Animal Health and Disease Research program; and the Regional Centers of Excellence in Food Supply Veterinary Medicine.

Senate Committee on Appropriations
Following the death of Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the 30-member Senate Committee on Appropriations has a new chairwoman, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). Also, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) assumes the role of ranking member because Thad Cochran opted to take that position on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Two members left for other committee assignments and six new members were added: Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mike Johanns D-Neb.), and John Boozman (D-Ark.).

Most of the funding issues that AVMA deals with come before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, which now has a new chair, Mark Pryor (R-Ark.). The ranking member will remain Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). This year, the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to complete work on the fiscal 2014 spending bills before the fiscal year concludes.

Senate Finance Committee
The 24-member Senate Finance Committee retains its chair, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and ranking member, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Four members retired; John Kerry was appointed to be Secretary of State; and another senator left to serve on a different committee. The six new members are Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.). The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, and other issues.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
The 22-member Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) retains its chair, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), but gets a new ranking member, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Only one member retired and three members left for other committee assignments. The four new members are Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).  The Senate HELP Committee has jurisdiction over the country’s health care, education, employment and retirement policies.

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