WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate caucus later this week in Washington to elect their respective leaders for the next session of Congress. Maine's two senators expect no changes in leadership, but they do expect some changes in their committee assignments and roles.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins has served in both the minority and the majority, and she says serving in the majority is certainly preferable. She will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful of the Senate committees. In the new session, she will also chair the Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing.
"I am very happy about that," Collins says. "Transportation issues are so huge in our state, and this will allow me to do even more for Maine."
Collins says she will use her chairmanship to push for more housing for veterans. She says the number of homeless veterans in the nation is a disgrace and she wants to improve their access to housing.
Because the Appropriations Committee takes so much time, Collins expects to serve on only three committees. She will continue to serve on the Intelligence Committee and expects to take a leadership role on the Senate Aging Committee. "I also expect to be named the chairman of the Aging Committee," she says, "another important assignment, given that Maine is the oldest state in the nation."
Collins says when the recounts and runoff elections are over, there is the possibility she could have a fourth committee assignment. The increased Republican numbers in the Senate is why independent Sen. Angus King expects to serves on fewer committees. He recently announced his decision to caucus with the Democrats.
"Why even join a caucus?" King asks rhetorically. "And the short answer is: That is how you get committee assignments. Basically, my having decided to caucus with the Democrats, it will be up to the leadership of the Democratic caucus, which will be established Thursday morning."
King does not expect changes in Democratic leadership, except the titles go from majority leaders to minority leaders. And he expects his two major committee assignments will continue. "As far as I know, Armed Services and Intelligence, I will still be on both of those committees," he says.
King says both of those committee assignments are important. But, he says he may lose his seat on the Budget Committee or the Rules committee or both, and be assigned to another panel, but that will likely be worked out with leaders and other senators at the caucus.
Committee assignments for returning Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Congressman-elect Bruce Poliquin will be decided at party meetings later in the month.