Having won control of the U.S. House of Representatives from President Barack Obama's Democrats in the November elections, Republicans will head the chamber's committees when the new Congress convenes on Wednesday.
Chairmen, working with party leaders, draft legislation in their respective jurisdictions and have the power to subpoena witnesses and call investigative hearings.
Here are key committee chairs and some of their positions:
- Appropriations — Hal Rogers of Kentucky will take a lead role in efforts to cut the federal budget. Rogers beat out Jerry Lewis, the committee's top Republican last year, with a promise to use his position to push back against environmental regulations and other Obama administration policies.
- Financial Services — As chairman, Spencer Bachus of Alabama will replace Democrat Barney Frank, a chief architect of Obama's crackdown on Wall Street that included tightening regulation of the financial industry. Bachus has said he will try to roll back portions of the sweeping law.
- Armed Services — Howard McKeon of California will help oversee Obama's troop buildup in Afghanistan and planned withdrawal. As the panel's top Republican last year, McKeon unsuccessfully pushed to increase defense spending, particularly on ballistic missiles.
- Budget — Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, one of the Republican "Young Guns," will be a key player in his party's vow to shrink government. Determined to cut record U.S. deficits, Ryan has offered a plan that calls for gradually raising the retirement age to 70, reducing future Social Security benefits for the rich and capping Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
- Foreign Affairs — Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who in 1988 became the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, opposes legislation to ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.
- Energy and Commerce — Fred Upton of Michigan will head the powerful panel that has oversight of energy policy, healthcare and telecommunications. The moderate congressman waged a high-profile campaign for the committee chairmanship in an effort to show he supports conservative causes. Representative Joe Barton, a former chairman of the committee, was passed over.
- Darrell Issa of California is expected to launch investigations of the Obama administration, including the $814 billion economic stimulus program. In October, Issa referred to Obama as "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." But just days after the November election, he tempered his remarks. "I'm not saying the president is personally corrupt. But his administration has to change direction," Issa said.
- Ways and Means — Dave Camp of Michigan, a key figure in the 1996 overhaul of the U.S. welfare system, will take a lead role in the Republican drive to create jobs by cutting taxes. He promises to push for approval of free trade agreements drafted during the Bush administration that have been blocked by Democrats. The panel will also be pivotal in the Republican bid to repeal Obama's healthcare law or parts of it.
- Agriculture — Frank Lucas of Oklahoma is a defender of traditional farm subsidies. But with Congress under pressure to find ways to cut spending, potential targets include oft-criticized federal crop supports. Republicans may push for the largest cuts in 15 years to farm programs.
- Homeland Security — Peter King of New York vows to challenge Obama on national security. King says one of his top priorities will be to stop the president's plans to transfer detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States to stand trial in civilian courts. King says he will also hold hearings on Obama's intentions to close the military facility, which now holds among its inmates Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
- Transportation — John Mica of Florida is likely to quash any talk of new airline regulation and lead efforts to craft legislation spelling out U.S. priorities on transportation spending, including billions of dollars for road, rail, seaport and airport construction projects.
- Judiciary — Representative Lamar Smith of Texas opposes Obama's bid to resurrect a bill rejected in the last Congress. The "Dream Act" would provide a path to U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the country as children. Smith complains the measure would amount to an unwarranted amnesty, take jobs from American workers and encourage more illegal immigrants.
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