EPW Chairman Carper to Retire; Path Clear for Whitehouse to Take Top Dem Spot

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, announced this week that he will not run for re-election next year and will leave the Senate at the end of his fourth six-year term.

In a statement, Carper, the last Vietnam veteran left in the Senate, said “As last year came to a close and the new one began, Martha and I began to focus on what I should do next. If I ran for a fifth term in the Senate and won, it would be a record 15 statewide elections. After a good deal of prayer and introspection, and more than a few heart-to-heart conversations, we’ve decided we should run through the tape over the next 20 months and finish the important work that my staff and I have begun on a wide range of fronts, many of them begun in partnership with Democrat and Republican colleagues in the Senate and in the House.

“At the top of the list is to oversee the implementation of major portions of our massive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with its major climate provisions, that I helped to write, along with the transformational clean energy tax provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. Implementation of both laws is indispensable if we are ultimately to win the battle against global warming while creating tens of millions of American jobs in the years to come.”

In Delaware, everything is statewide, the state only having one Congressional district. And Carper has held statewide office, in some form, for 46 years, having first been elected state treasurer at the young age of 29, in 1976. The resume runs:

  • 1977-1983: State Treasurer
  • 1983-1993: U.S. House of Representatives
  • 1993-2001: Governor
  • 2001-present: U.S. Senate

Carper usually cites the governorship as his favorite job and as his perspective on public works and transportation as tools for community building and enrichment.

His retirement leaves a vacancy at the top of the Democratic roster on EPW – and Senate Democrats are still strict adherents to committee seniority. Next in line is Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) – except that Cardin announced his retirement from the Senate earlier this month.

Next in line is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who just gave up the gavel of the Budget Committee when the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee. The jurisdiction of the HELP Committee on the issues that Sanders and his supporters really care about is so much greater than EPW that no one expects Sanders to come back and take the EPW position.

That leaves Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who just months ago took over from Sanders as chairman of the Budget Committee. But Budget is a panel that has little to do these days, with the actual budget parameters now negotiated directly between party leaders and the White House, and the chairmanship is especially thankless. Expect Whitehouse to take over the top Democratic slot from Carper in January 2025.

Whether that will mean that Whitehouse will be chairman or ranking minority member remains to be seen. The map of Senate seats at stake in 2024 favors Republicans, but good candidates and the overall political environment are still dispositive.

Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill