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Republicans Take Over Key Senate Committees

The Republican takeover of the Senate means Sen. John McCain. R-Arizona, will likely take over the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee as the Republican ranking members of prominent Senate committees look to move up.

On the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina, could also be shortlisted to take over as chairman from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. Although Sanders is an independent, he caucuses with the Democrats.

But Burr is also a favorite to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to reports. After Burr, the most senior Republican on the committee is Sen. Johnny Isaakson of Georgia, though he might also be tapped to chair Senate Ethics Committee, where he is the ranking member.

Next up by seniority is Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, but he is leaving the Senate after deciding not to seek reelection. That leaves Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas as next in line.

Historically, the Senate places a great emphasis on seniority when it comes to chairing committees and subcommittees.

Once the new Senate leadership issues committee assignments, the Republicans will hold a secret ballot vote to choose the chairman, according to David Morgenstern, a former Republican Senate staffer who now works for the bipartisan lobbying and public relations firm Podesta Group.

“Technically, Senate Republicans are not required to choose the person with the longest consecutive service on each committee to serve as chairman or ranking member. In practice, however, seniority continues to prevail,” he said.

And as a carry-over from the 1994 “Republican Revolution” – which demanded term limits – the GOP in the Senate limits its chair and ranking members from serving more than six years in the job.

With those rules in mind, here are the favorites for Senate Armed Services subcommittees:

Senate Armed Services Committee

Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Sen. Deb Fischer, now the ranking member, would succeed Chairwoman Sen. Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, who just lost her bid for reelection to Republican Thom Tillis.

Strategic Forces: Sen. Jeff Session of Alabama is in place to assume the chairmanship. Current Chairman Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado will also be exiting the Senate after losing to Republican Cory Gardner.

Readiness: Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Ayotte would be taking over the readiness panel chair from her New Hampshire colleague Jeanne Shaheen, who on Tuesday retained her Senate seat in a narrow victory over Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts Senator.

Personnel: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was reelected on Tuesday. Graham is the panel’s ranking member.

Airland: Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is not only the current ranking member of the panel, but nearly all its other members are in position to advance on other subcommittees, or are leaving.

Seapower: Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. Other GOP Senators on the panel have more seniority but are already in line for other chairmanships. These include McCain, Sessions, Wicker, Ayotte and Graham. With its current GOP make-up, the only senator with less seniority on the Seapower panel is Ted Cruz of Texas.

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