With Democrats clinging to slim hopes of retaining a Senate majority, the would-be Senate Armed Services Committee chairman remains undecided on taking that gavel.
SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is retiring at the end of this legislative session, meaning there will be a new chairman in January. If Republicans, as experts are projecting, take control of the chamber, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is poised to take the gavel. But the Democratic frontrunner is eying another gavel.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-Mich., is the panel’s current vice chairman. Conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill and among defense-sector insiders since Levin announced his retirement last year was that Reed would succeed Levin if Democrats kept their majority.
Levin even endorsed Reed for the job in March 2013.
“Hopefully, Democrats keep control,” Levin said then. “I think he’s great. He’ll be a terrific chairman. I just think you couldn’t do better.”
But with the midterm elections just a week away, Politico Pro reported on Wednesday that Reed is undecided about taking the Armed Services gavel or becoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., current Banking Committee chairman, is retiring. Reed is the next Democrat in line on that panel.
“He has ALWAYS been consistent and never declared his intention to lead one committee or the other,” Reed spokesman Chip Unruh wrote in a Thursday email.
“He will be the most senior Democrat on two key committees (SASC and Banking) and has not decided which one he will lead,” Unruh said, “and won’t make that decision until after the election and after he has a chance to discuss it with his colleagues.”
That begs the question: If not Reed, who?
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is next in line. He currently chairs the Special Committee on Aging.
A Nelson spokesman had not responded to an inquiry at time of publication.
After Nelson comes Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who does not currently chair a full committee — she is chairwoman of two subcommittees.
A McCaskill spokeswoman declined to comment when contacted by CongressWatch.
The palace intrigue, however, might be moot, as political analysts are increasingly confident Republicans will capture control of the Senate.