Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Ron Johnson Senate Committee Shuffle

The Senator stays on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Budget committees. Neither are especially sexy these days, but nor are they unimportant. (To read about the the massive faux pas Johnson committed whilst on the Homeland Security panel last fall, go here.)

Johnson also moves from the Aging clique to the Small Business huddle. While this seems like a much more logical place for Johnson, the Aging committee does periodicity meddle in Medicare and Social Security affairs -- precisely the kind of entitlement spending Johnson has expressed on numerous occasions he wishes to reform. The Small Business committee -- which, to be perfectly honest, I only found out existed this afternoon -- seems like a kind of Senate Island of Misfits Toys. I gather Mitch McConnell must have been listening all those times Johnson reminded his colleagues that he's really just a small businessman from the Midwest, etc., etc.  and finally did something about it when it came to draw up committee assignments.

Johnson was also given a spot on the Foreign Relations committee ... for some reason. International affairs is something Johnson has avoided like the plague in most cases -- save his conspiracy mongering over Benghazi -- and is an area that is clearly out of his wheelhouse. Then again, the entire GOP side of the committee looks like a knee-jerk anti-Model United Nations team.

Foreign Relations is an odd fit for Johnson, especially since it comes at the expense of his seat on the Appropriations Committee, which is usually considered to be the most powerful committee in the Senate. This is a clear step int he wrong direction given Johnson's skill set. Yes, there is a good deal of prestige being on the FR committee, but simply sitting on the committee does not a Washington Greybeard one make. Usually the prestige comes with making dozens of diplomatic and "fact-finding" trips abroad, meeting with hundreds of foreign leaders and befriending them. Johnson seems to have a hard enough time doing that with members of his own party. A seat on the Appropriations committee guarantees the holder a certain measure of power; one can still be ignored on the FR committee, especially since there really isn't much along the lines of high profile diplomacy on the radar during the next congress.

It's difficult to look at these new committee assignments, at least in aggregate, as anything other than a disappointment. They either mark demotions or deployments to places where Johnson can be supervised by GOP Senators who know what they're doing. Senator is being put in his place and that place is on the back bench.

MORE: Forgot one: Commerce, Science and Transportation ... cue the rocket scientist jokes.


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