Dems Expand Majority on Senate Commerce Committee

Senate Democrats may have an easier time in the 111th Congress getting their telecommunications agenda through the key Commerce Committee, following an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Under the agreement, Democrats will have a three-seat advantage on several committees. On Commerce, that extends the Democratic majority from 12-11 to 14-11.

Three newly elected Democrats—Mark Warner of Virginia, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Mark Begich of Alaska—will take seats on the committee. Tom Carper, D-Del., will leave Commerce and other committees to join the Finance Committee.

The Republicans lost three Commerce Committee members in the November elections—former chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska, Gordon Smith of Oregon (a second cousin to Tom Udall as well as to incoming Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.) and John Sununu of New Hampshire.

A spokesman for the committee Republicans said Wednesday that the caucus had not yet determined which three Republicans will take those slots.

The new chairman of Commerce is Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., with Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas—who has sided with the Democrats on some issues, such as media consolidation—as the top Republican on the panel.