Election Portends Changes for National Archives on Capitol Hill

On November 6, voters retained the current balance of power in Washington. Republicans retained control of the House (234-201), albeit with the loss of a handful of seats, and of course President Obama was re-elected. Democrats retained control of the Senate and saw their margin increased by two seats, to 55-45.

This includes independent Senators Sanders of Vermont and Senator-Elect Angus King of Maine, who have said they will caucus with the Democrats.

The post-election period is critical as the jockeying for assignments to prime committees, and the selection of subcommittee chairs and ranking members, takes place within each party’s caucuses. Who fills these slots has a great bearing on what will take place in the next two years.

At this point, most predictions as to who will end up where are speculative at best. However, we do know that there will be major changes in the committees that fund and oversee the National Archives and National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

In the Senate, with the retirement of Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Senator Thomas Carper (D-Del.) will assume the chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees NARA and the NHPRC. Carper has chaired the subcommittee for several years and had been a strong advocate for their programs.

Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Me.), also generally positively disposed toward NARA, will be replaced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who has gained a reputation as the most aggressive budget cutter in the U.S. Senate. Coburn, who is a physician, has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his zealous attempts to reign in federal spending and has already demonstrated his disdain for humanities programs. For example, in 2010 the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Coburn that would have eliminated funding for the political science program at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

On the House side, Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government announced, after she had been re-elected, that she was resigning to become CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Her loss will be deeply felt since she has been a moderate voice in comparison to many of her Tea Party colleagues and has been as supportive of funding for NARA and the NHPRC as possible. It is unknown at this time who will replace her.

We will have further updates on changes in the key players once the 113th Congress convenes in January.

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