Making that move would require Cochran give up his chairmanship of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee. He would, however, maintain his committee member seat on that subcommittee.
According to Senate rules, a senator cannot be chairman of more than one appropriations subcommittee. And because Cochran is the number two Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he’ll likely have first crack at the new post.
“He’s obviously going to seriously consider all options, but he has not yet made his decision,” says Mark Keenum, Cochran’s chief of staff. “No matter what decision Sen. Cochran makes, he will still have a tremendous amount of influence on both the Appropriations and Agriculture Committees. Agriculture continues to be a high priority for us.”
According to Keenum, the full committee on appropriations is going to meet next week to lay out its plans for the reorganization of the committee’s structure. That meeting is tentatively set for Tuesday, at which time the identity of the new Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman will likely be announced.
“Sen. Cochran is the highest ranking member on the committee, other than the chairman, so he will likely have first choice. That does not mean he has made that decision yet,” says Keenum. “We may also have some input as to how the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee is put together.”
Cochran also serves as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee, and Keenum says, “Anything to do with agriculture, will continue to be deferred to us. The Senate leadership will always look to the committee chairman when agricultural issues are brought to the floor.”
That could bear great importance to Southern farmers in three to five weeks when fighting resumes in the agriculture appropriations subcommittee over payment limits. It’s at that time when debate is expected to begin on a supplemental appropriations bill, which includes payment limitation language by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
“Sen. Cochran will still be the second highest ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Grassley is not on the Appropriations Committee. Anything he does will have to be done on the Senate floor, and we’ll be prepared to tackle that issue again when, and if, it is brought to the floor,” says Keenum.
One insider says his information would suggest that Cochran’s move to the Homeland Security committee is in motion.
“It’s bigger than Cochran,” is how one Beltwide insider sums up the situation. “With the addition of the Homeland Security Department, there is a need to reorganize the appropriations committee to spread out the additional responsibilities.”
With creation of the new Homeland Security Department, Congress was forced to restructure various committees. The reorganization plan currently being formulated in the Senate largely replicates the House plan, which created a new Homeland Security Subcommittee pieced together from eight existing appropriations subcommittees.
In the Senate, there are currently 13 subcommittees under the umbrella of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Adding a Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee is, in essence, adding a fourteenth subcommittee with out adding any new members of the Senate.