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Changes coming to congressional science, small business committees

November 06, 2020

As of this writing, control of Congress remains officially undecided, although the end result will likely be status quo: Republican control of the Senate and Democratic control of the House. While the discourse and activity around major legislation may not change, there will be changes to the committees that most strongly impact science and small business legislation. The new members will not be determined until the next session, but multiple departures from these committees are already known.

Senate

Six Senators did not seek reelection, and three incumbents lost reelection, with both Georgia Senate seats appearing likely to head to a runoff (per New York Times as of Friday at noon). The most significant change among current science and small business committees is that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has lost his election and will not be returning as chair of the commerce subcommittee overseeing science legislation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is next in line, may prefer to maintain his chairmanship of the space subcommittee. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) would be next in line to lead the science subcommittee, although his race has not yet been called.

House

Out of 435 seats in the House, 36 members did not run for reelection and seven incumbents have lost their races, with 30 races yet to be called (per New York Times as of Friday at noon). The results guarantee new faces on the science and small business committees.

The science committee is likely to have at least three new members. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.-5) has lost her race and, as a result, will not be returning as chair of the science subcommittee on space and aeronautics. Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.-3) and Pete Olson (R-Texas-22) did not run in the general election and will not return to the committee. Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah-4) is in a virtual tie in his race. Some members who are returning to Congress may change their committee assignments, resulting in further changes, but Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson and Ranking Member Frank Lucas are expected to return to their leadership roles on the science committee.

Related to issues overseen by the science committee, Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.-15) did not run in 2020 and will not be returning to his role as chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Economic Development Administration and science agencies. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.-14) also did not seek reelection. Leadership of this subcommittee in the next congress likely depends on the overall committee leadership, which will be determined in the next session.

The elections have driven fewer changes for the small business committee. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa-1) has lost her race and, as a result, will not return as chair of the subcommittee on rural issues, but further changes will wait until committee assignments are made next session.

congress, elections