Republicans, who lost control of the Senate 17 months ago through one senator’s decision, regained command Tuesday the old-fashioned way: at the polls.
With just one of the 34 races hanging in the balance the day after the Nov. 5 midterm elections—in Louisiana, where matters will be decided in a Dec. 7 runoff—Republicans secured 51 seats in the 100-member upper chamber of Congress. In the House, meanwhile, where the GOP held a 14-seat working majority entering the election, the postelection makeup appears likely to be 228 Republicans, 206 Democrats, and one Independent, who typically votes with Democrats.
The most immediate consequence for education will be in the Senate, where the GOP majority likely means that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., will hand over the gavel for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. And Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, despite comfortably winning what had earlier appeared to be a strong challenge from Rep. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, will no longer run the subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee that deals with education spending.
His probable successor: Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has been the subcommittee’s ranking minority member and had chaired the panel when the GOP previously controlled the Senate.
Democrats have led those panels since Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, at the time a Republican and the chairman of the Senate education committee, decided to become an Independent and support Democratic control of the chamber. After his switch, the Senate’s 50 Democrats, with his help, had what amounted to a two-seat advantage over the remaining 49 Republicans.
Depending on what happens with the Louisiana race, Republicans will have either a two-seat or three-seat majority in the next Congress.
Besides the shift in chairmanships, other changes on the congressional committees that deal with education are in the offing.
Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., who lost to Democratic state Attorney General Mark Pryor, has been a member of the Senate education committee. And Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a member of the Appropriations education subcommittee, faces the December runoff with Republican Suzanne Terrell.
Former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, a Republican elected to the Senate from Tennessee over Democratic Rep. Bob Clement, has said he would like to take a seat on the education committee.
In the House, a number of members of the Education and the Workforce Committee will not be in the coming Congress.
Among them: the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, who died last month of viral pneumonia. Her name remained on the ballot, and she defeated three other candidates. Ms. Mink’s seat will now be declared vacant and a special election will be held Jan. 4, with the winner serving a full two-year term. That election further complicates the accounting of the exact partisan makeup of the House in the coming Congress.
Others leaving include Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., and Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., who are retiring; Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was elected to the Senate Tuesday; and Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., who ran unsuccessfully for the Tennessee governorship.