New Senate Commerce lineup – hold the DeMint


US CongressJay Rockefeller (D-WV) will continue on as chair of the influential Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. And we now know who will serve for the Republican Party, which lost three top members to retirement. But there are still some issues to be determined.

For starters, subcommittee assignments have not been released, so the identities of the members of the Communications panel is as yet unknown.

Further, the Republicans have not yet announced who will be the ranking member, in the absence of now departed Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and the two formerly most senior members behind her, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).

John Thune (R-SD) is listed atop the Republican committee roster, but his role in overall Republican Senate leadership may preclude taking on Commerce Committee ranking member duties.

DeMint’s appointed successor Tim Scott, who is sliding over from the House of Representatives, will keep a South Carolina presence on the committee but of course will not enjoy the benefits of DeMint’s seniority. DeMint had been chair of the Communications Subcommittee.

The Democratic Communications Subcommittee Chair, John Kerry (D-MA), is expected to be exiting the panel to become Secretary of State. If he does so, and announced candidate Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is able to win his seat in an open election, Markey would make a logical replacement for Kerry on the Commerce Committee in general and the Communications Subcommittee in particular, since he has long served on its parallel in the House. Of course, like Scott, he would not be able to hang on to Kerry’s seniority. He will also likely have to get past possible Republican candidate Scott Brown, who won the former seat of the late Ted Kennedy before losing it to Elizabeth Warren in November.

Here then is the new committee roster. Note that the Democrats still have an opening to fill, and may have another pending the career path of Kerry.

Majority Members
Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV)
John F. Kerry (D-MA)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Unassigned Democratic Member

Minority Members
John Thune (R-SD)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)

RBR-TVBR observation: The biggest change from last year is the exit of one particular senator. DeMint, who exited to take over the top spot at a conservative Washington think tank, had put forth legislation that proposed vast deregulation of the communications business.

Broadcasters were particularly concerned that it could have severely undermined their ability to earn fair compensation for use of their programming by MVPDs via retransmission consent negotiations.

The issue would have been a non-starter due to the Republican failure to take over the Senate and the general Democratic opposition to DeMint’s bill. Now its lack of a sponsor makes its path from proposal to law even more untenable.