After weeks of negotiations and disagreement, Senate leaders have settled on an organizing resolution that will officially put Democrats in charge of the committees for the 117th Congress. The resolution was approved Feb. 3 and is modeled after the 2001 organizing resolution, the last time the Senate split 50-50.

Senate committees will have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but Democrats – holding Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote – will lead the committees and have the ability to break any ties in committee.

Here are some names to pay attention to for Fed IT issues.

Armed Services Committee

Home to the Senate subcommittee on Cybersecurity, the Armed Services Committee will now be helmed by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., moving to ranking member of the committee. First-time Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., will also be joining the committee.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will now chair the Cybersecurity subcommittee, charged with oversight of programs and policies that affect cyber capabilities. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., will join him in committee leadership as the ranking member.

The Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee will be chaired by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, taking over as ranking member.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Sen. Peters will also move into the chairman role of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and has already said that strengthening cybersecurity at all levels of government is a priority for the committee. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is now the ranking member of the committee.

As the previous ranking member, Sen. Peters late last year announced plans to introduce cybersecurity legislation in the new Congress and plans to hold hearings early in the year.

“The recently discovered and ongoing cyber-attacks cannot be tolerated and demonstrate the weakness of our cyber defenses and capacity to respond,” Sens. Peters and Portman said in a December 2020 statement referring to the Russia-backed hacks of U.S. networks. “These attacks were highly complex and they must be unraveled to know the full extent of the exposure to federal and state agencies and the private sector. The immediate effort must be to stop the immediate threat and ensure our systems are secure.

First-time Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., will also serve on the committee, which is tasked with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.

Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has a range of tech issues in its purview as home to the subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., will chair the committee with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., moving to the ranking member role. Freshman Sens. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.; and Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., will also serve on the committee.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, will chair the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and Internet subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over all things communications and oversight of the Federal Communications Commission, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Telecommunication Information Administration. Schatz has been advocating for broadband and telehealth improvements over the course of the pandemic. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., will move to ranking member on the subcommittee.

Select Intelligence Committee

One more Senate committee with Fed IT implications is the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will take over as the committee’s chairman, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., becomes the ranking member.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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