In the Senate Democratic Committee chairmanships, except in rare cases are selected by seniority. Once members reach the top of a few select committees they are apt to stay for years.
Right now there is a rare moment where as many as eight chairmanships could open up. (that assumes, as rumored, that both Byrd and Lieberman are no longer chairman of their respective committees.)
What changes are possibly in store?
First, Joe Biden will no longer chair Foreign Relations, opening up the slot for Chris Dodd. Dodd could chose to stay at banking or open up the slot, which would then go to Tim Johnson.
If Byrd leaves the Appropriations chairman’s post, Inouye (who has been in Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation since it became a state) would by seniority become chairman. This would open up the Commerce Committee where Rockefeller is next in line. Rockefeller’s departure would open up the Intelligence chairmanship for Diane Feinstein. Feinstein would leave her chairmanship of the Rules Committee and since she is followed in seniority by Byrd, Inouye and Dodd, leaving Schumer next in line to take that post.
If Lieberman is removed as Government Affairs Committee Chairman, Carl Levin is next in line, but he will probably prefer to stay at Armed Services, opening up the post for Akaka. He would step down as Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, and since Rockefeller already chairs the Commerce Committee, Patty Murray is next in line.
Since that is such a mouthful here is a little chart:
Lieberman, Levin, Akaka
Feinstein, Byrd, Inouye, Dodd, Schumer
Akaka, Rockefeller, Murray,
Obviously there are a lot of moving pieces on the board. Dodd for example, could decide to stay at Banking in the midst of the financial crisis leaving Foreign Relations to John Kerry. This would open up the small business committee where Levin, Harkin, and Lieberman are next in line, leaving the Chairman’s post to Landrieu.
These changes will be worked out during the next few weeks as the Senate probably cannot set the committee ratios until the remaining elections are decided.