Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the ranking member on the Republican side of the Commerce Committee, has announced the formation of an exploratory committee with an eye on the governor’s mansion in her home state. It promises to stir a committee roster that has already been shaken. The Texas race will be in 2010, and Hutchison would be able to continue serving – her seat is not due for another voter referendum until 2012. She could also exit upon officially announcing her candidacy for Texas governor.
Hutchison has been serving as ranking member of Commerce since disgraced and now defeated Ted Stevens (R-AK) was officially indicted by a grand jury earlier this year. Also voted out of office were Gordon Smith (R-OR) and John Sununu (R-NH).
Listed after Stevens on the committee Republican roster is John McCain (R-AZ), who is likely to retain his leadership position on the Armed Services Committee.
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is the next survivor, and she may very well opt to slide over from her current leadership slot on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Next is John Ensign (R-NV), who is ranking member on a pair of subcommittees. The final four Republican members of the 110th Congress version of Commerce are Jim DeMint (R-SC), David Vitter (R-LA), John Thune (R-SD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
RBR/TVBR observation: Snowe may be the closest thing to a Democrat remaining on the Republican side of the aisle since Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) was dispatched in 2006. Coupled with the possibility of a Snowe storm is the absence of the two most consistent free marketers, with Sununu this year following George Allen (R-VA), whom voters also returned to the private sector in 2006. Should Snowe get the top slot, it would figure to increase the bipartisan spirit of one of the more bipartisan committees in the Senate.