Barrasso Will Leave Highway Chairmanship

Senate Environment and Public Works chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) announced on November 18 that, if Republicans retain control of the Senate in the 117th Congress, he will exercise his seniority rights and take over the chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January. If this happens, the chairmanship of “EPW,” which controls highway policy, would fall to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), through the ironclad Senate rule of seniority.

And Barrasso’s move will likely happen whether or not the Senate changes party control.

Why? Remember the three rules:

  1. Congressional Republicans have term limits for committee chairmen and ranking minority members. Congressional Democrats don’t.
  2. House Republicans have a six-year term limit on combined service as chairman or ranking minority member of a committee.
  3. Senate Republicans have separate six-year term limits on service as chairman or ranking minority member of a committee.

In this case, it doesn’t matter if Republicans win one, both, or neither of the Georgia Senate runoff races on January 5. Murkowski served as ranking minority member of Energy from 2009-2014 and then served as chairman from 2015 to the present, so by January 3 she will have had her full six years in each position, and Barrasso will take over.

(Both energy and “natural resources,” a.k.a. public lands and the Interior Department, are a big deal in Wyoming.)

Capito currently serves as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on EPW, so she and her staff have had a role in drafting the current Senate highway reauthorization bill and water resources development bill.

Before her Senate service, she served in the House from 2001-2014, where she served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the 2012 MAP-21 bill.

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