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Latta Cagey on Gavel

Cantwell Plans to Stay Senate Commerce Chair; Thune Remaining Communications GOP Lead

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Communications Subcommittee ranking member John Thune, R-S.D., confirmed to us this week they intend to stay in their respective roles in the 118th Congress. Incompas CEO Chip Pickering said during a Thursday webinar he believes there will be relative continuity in the House and Senate Commerce panels’ leadership. That continuity contrasted with top-level turnover in House Democratic leadership after Thursday announcements by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina that they will step down from top party roles after this Congress.

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Cantwell told us “the plan” is for her to stay on as Senate Commerce chair in the next Congress. Thune said it’s likely he will remain Communications ranking member under likely incoming Commerce lead Republican Ted Cruz of Texas (see 2203070068) assuming the subpanel leadership “is available, and I assume it will be, and if we have the same seniority system,” since he’s the “most senior Republican on the committee.” Senate Republicans reelected Thune as GOP whip Wednesday. Current Senate Commerce ranking member Roger Wicker of Mississippi is moving on to be lead Republican on the Armed Services Committee following the retirement of Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

House Communications Subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta, R-Ohio, told us it’s not certain he will shift over to being subpanel chairman in the next Congress, when Republicans will reclaim their majority in the chamber. Most major news organizations called House control Wednesday for the GOP, forecasting the party will hold a slim majority in the chamber. Those outlets said Republicans had won 218 seats to Democrats’ 210, with seven races still not called Thursday afternoon. “We’re still talking with” incoming House Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., about which Republicans she wants to chair the subpanels and how to structure them, Latta said: “It’s going to be up to her what we do.”

Pickering didn’t share Latta’s caginess Thursday, saying that Latta will definitely wield the House Communications gavel in the next Congress, while Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., will “continue” as Senate Communications chair. Pickering didn’t mention the sweepstakes to replace retiring Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania as lead House Communications Democrat, but lobbyists said current Vice Chair Doris Matsui of California is still the favorite for the role (see 2111120002). Lujan and Matsui didn’t comment. Pickering also didn’t mention whether House Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey will remain lead panel Democrat.