|Reprinted from the December/January
2005 ABI Journal||December 1,
Web posted and Copyright © December 1,
of GOP Election Sweep
he President's re-election with expanded
Republican majorities in the Senate and House may have implications
for a host of legislative items stalled in the 108th Congress.
Bankruptcy legislation, asbestos claim reform, class action
legislation and more may be on the agenda when the new Congress convenes
in January. It is possible these issues will be pursued more
aggressively early in the first session of the 109th Congress.
The defeat of Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is
particularly significant, as Daschle blocked a host of bills favored
by the business and financial community. Senate Democrats will have
to choose a new leader from a range of options, including a continuation
of a strategy to block any initiative that cannot muster a 60-vote
supermajority. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has voted for the
bankruptcy bill in the past, will be the new minority leader. Sen.
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), just re-elected, will continue as Ranking
Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on
Administrative Oversight and the Courts. He has been an opponent of
the bankruptcy bill.
On the other side of the Senate aisle,
Republicans will have a new chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is term-limited by GOP
caucus rules. Hatch has been a strong supporter of the bankruptcy
bill. The leading contender due to seniority is Sen. Arlen Specter
(R-Pa.). Specter is one of the GOP's most liberal members, however,
and may face a challenge within his caucus for the chairman's gavel.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a non-lawyer, could assert his
seniority right to chair the committee, but is unlikely to give up
his role as chair of the powerful Finance Committee.
event, Senate Democrats may lose a seat on the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) gave up his seat to run on the national
ticket, and this seat was won by a Republican. This was one of
several Republican pickups in the Senate. The resulting 55-44-1 split
may make for a 10-8 Republican majority on the committee, changed
from 10-9 in the last Congress. This is a big difference in a
sharply divided committee such as Judiciary.