Three New Thorns in Obama's Side
The Republican-controlled Senate spells trouble for President Barack Obama; three new committee chairmen could be nightmares.
Senator John McCain of Arizona probably will take over the Armed Services Committee. He is a tough critic of Obama's national security policies and has argued for a more robust presence in Iraq and Syria, keeping a residual force in Afghanistan and for a more confrontational approach to Russia. McCain is no fan of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel or General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; he will pressure them to support considerably higher defense spending.
The Arizona Republican has few equals in his ability to attract attention and command the press and political stage. He is widely expected to seek re-election in 2016, when he'll be 80.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa will take over the Senate Judiciary Committee. The veteran Republican is likely to block most Obama judicial nominees. He is tenacious in fully checking any issues, professional or personal, in a candidate's background.
An early test: The confirmation of a new attorney general. The president hasn't nominated anyone to replace Eric Holder, which means any confirmation vote probably will await the new Congress. Indications are that Grassley will seek a seventh term in 2016, when he'll be 83.
Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma will take over as chairman of the Environmental Committee. He's not as resourceful or respected as Grassley or McCain. A global warming skeptic, he opposes most of the Obama administration's environmental regulations.
The 79-year-old Inhofe's term doesn't expire until 2018. He probably can't muster the votes to pass anti-regulatory measures outright. But there is a weapon available to the leadership: adding such measures as riders to appropriations bills, making it harder for the administration to veto or thwart congressional actions. Inhofe's term doesn't expire until 2018.
And although a top conservative priority to require congressional approval for major regulations would face a certain veto if it got to the president's desk, the majority party can slash funding for agencies they don't like. That would include the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
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