How House Democrats will choose Ag Committee chair
House Democrats will begin the process of choosing committee chairs for the 117th Congress next week, including the chair of the House Agriculture Committee. But the new chairs will not be confirmed by the caucus until early January, according to the Rules of the Democratic Caucus and congressional staff.
A new chairman will be chosen because House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., lost his bid for re-election.
Reps. David Scott, D-Ga., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., the second- and third-highest ranking members of the committee by seniority, have both said they will run for the job. There are also rumors that Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who ranks just after Scott and Costa in seniority, may run, although she has not made any announcement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced on Monday that both the Democrats and Republicans will begin their leadership election process next week while members-elect participate in orientation.
Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Hoyer have said they hope the caucus will elect them to the top leadership positions again. So far there does not seem to be a movement against giving them another term, even though there has been opposition to their leadership in the past and the Democrats lost some seats in the election last week.
According to the written Rules of the Democratic Caucus, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which is chaired by the speaker and includes other members designated in the rules, nominate the committee chairs.
The committee first takes up the chairmanships of the most important committees, which are known as “exclusive” because their members cannot serve on another committee without a waiver: Appropriations, Ways and Means, Rules, Energy and Commerce, and Financial Services.
After considering those chairmanships, the Steering and Policy Committee turns to the chairmanships of second-tier committees, known as “non-exclusive” because members can serve on other committees.
Due to this scheduling, it’s likely that consideration of the Agriculture Committee chairmanship will not come up until after the Thanksgiving recess.
Members of the House Agriculture Committee do not vote on their own chairman, but they can signal their support through news releases, statements or letters to the Steering and Policy Committee, which makes a recommendation to the full Democratic Caucus. The caucus votes on the recommendation after the new members of Congress have been seated in early January.
A member of the committee who wanted the chairmanship but did not get it could mount a challenge, but success isn’t likely, a committee aide said.
After the chair is chosen, it will be time to appoint members to the committee.
The ratio of Democrats and Republicans on the committees is subject to negotiation between the party leadership, but the number of Democrats on Agriculture — currently 26 — is expected to go down because there will be fewer Democrats in the House in 2021.
The appointments of members to the committee won’t come until the first part of the year. Peterson has noted that in recent years it has been hard to convince Democratic members to serve on Agriculture because so few come from rural areas.
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