on the hill

Senate releases committee assignments after weeks of delay

Here’s who’s been assigned to some of the Senate’s key panels

U.S. Senate

Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

After weeks of delays, Senate Democrats and Republicans released their committee rosters for the new Congress, setting the upper chamber on the path toward beginning legislative business for the year. Meet the new faces on some of the Senate’s key panels:

Foreign Relations Committee 

Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) will be returning to the roles they held for the past two years. Read Jewish Insider’s sit-down interview with Risch last week here.

Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is a former Army National Guard helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. Last year, Duckworth joined calls for an FBI investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and increased funding for the office of the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. She previously signed onto a letter warning against unilateral annexation of the West Bank and told Jewish Insider in 2017 that she was “troubled” by Ambassador David Friedman’s nomination. When she was under consideration for the vice presidential nomination in 2020, Illinois Jewish leaders praised her as a friend of the Jewish community and a strong supporter of Israel.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) was a popular speaker at last year’s Republican Jewish Coalition conference, where he highlighted his bipartisan work on Israel-related issues and antisemitism, including co-founding the Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations. Last year, he was a leader on legislation aiming to extend existing U.S. sanctions on Iran and a letter urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Unilever. He also condemned Iraq’s anti-Israel normalization law and urged the expansion of the Abraham Accords. In 2021, Scott joined pushes for the nomination of an antisemitism envoy and for Israel to be added to the Visa Waiver Program

Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) is a former governor of Nebraska, appointed last month to finish out former Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-NE) term. Ricketts met with Israeli officials and highlighted the Nebraska-Israel business relationship during his governorship, and spoke out against the United Nations’ targeting of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Rickets spoke at an event in Lincoln, Neb., organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee and other leading Jewish groups, and at the RJC’s 2018 conference.

Staying and going: On the Democratic side, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is leaving the committee, while the rest of the roster will return. On the Republican side, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Todd Young (R-IN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) are returning to the committee. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) are departing, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) retired at the end of the last Congress.

Armed Services Committee

Roger Wicker (R-MS), who has been on the committee since 2011, is stepping up to be the ranking member this term following the retirement of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Wicker is a former Air Force officer. In the previous Congress, Wicker sponsored bills to block the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served Palestinians, sanction international supporters of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, withhold aid to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency pending a raft of policy changes and support the expansion of the Abraham Accords. He also cosigned a letter claiming that U.S. aid to the Palestinians may violate the Taylor Force Act. 

Ted Budd (R-NC) is a former House member elected to the Senate in November. In one of his first acts as a senator, Budd took a trip to Abraham Accords signatory countries with the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus. At a press conference following that trip, he said that leaders told the group “again and again and again… the fear among our Middle East allies that America is not going to have [their] back.”

Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) is a former House member also elected in November. In the last Congress, he was a cosponsor of legislation aiming to shut down the U.N.’s commission of inquiry focused on Israel, prevent the U.S. from reopening a Jerusalem consulate, codify ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran and support the Abraham Accords. He also co-sponsored a resolution condemning and censuring the members of the Squad for “defending foreign terrorist organizations and inciting anti-Semitic attacks across the United States.”

Eric Schmitt (R-MO) is the former attorney general of Missouri. Last year, he led a group of 19 attorneys general in an investigation of Morningstar’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings systems, probing whether the financial services firm had violated the states’ respective anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions laws.

On and off: The Democratic roster for the committee will remain the same as the previous Congress. On the GOP side, Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rick Scott (R-FL) are returning to the committee. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) are leaving.

Homeland Security Committee

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) will remain the committee’s chairman, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will replace former Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) as the ranking member.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who is Jewish, was a lead sponsor of the Never Again Education Act in the Senate in 2020, which provided additional funding for Holocaust education and part of a working group on antisemitism on Capitol Hill last year with leaders from the Hill and the administration. He has also supported expanded funding for the antisemitism special envoy and adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program, administered through the Department of Homeland Security. Blumenthal was a leader in efforts to pass additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system in 2021.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) sponsored legislation in 2021 condemning antisemitic violence and rhetoric connected to pro-Palestinian protests, and connected anti-Israel rhetoric from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in the news media to this violence. He has also supported adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program. He has backed expanding sanctions on Iran and Palestinian terror groups.

Returning and leaving: With the exception of Portman, the full committee roster is returning.

Judiciary Committee

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will continue to chair the committee while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will become the ranking member.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) is a newly elected senator who previously served in the House. Vermont Rabbi Amy Small told JI in 2021 that Welch called her “regularly” during the week following the 2018 Tree of Life shooting, calling his support “a tremendous gift,” and adding that he has been engaged on issues relating to antisemitism. 

Departing: The full committee roster will return with the exception of retired Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE).

The committee’s previous chair and ranking member retired at the end of last year. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have assumed the top spots this year.

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