The New Senate Chiefs
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Massachusetts's unabashedly liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy has been a long-standing supporter of minimum wage hikes and improving access to healthcare. The same issues have been noted by Democratic leaders as priorities in the new Congress, and Kennedy is set to be a leader in both efforts. He initially supported President Bush's No Child Left Behind plan for education but has since been critical of its implementation.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Fresh off his victory as an independent against Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman received a strong mandate from voters for a foreign policy agenda that includes dogged support for the Iraq war. With a slim one-seat majority in the Senate, Democrats will have to reckon with Lieberman when promoting changes in Iraq. But for all the praise GOP leaders heaped on him during the campaign, Lieberman is no Republican and will most likely use his position as chairman to continue to oppose the Bush administration's environmental policies.
Intelligence Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2003 but has since said he regretted the decision and has been a strong voice for investigations into the intelligence used to promote the war. He was one of a handful of senators who voted against the confirmation of CIA Director Porter Goss but expressed cautious praise this week for the nomination of former CIA Director Robert Gates to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Judiciary Republicans accused Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy of obstructing confirmation of Bush's judiciary nominees when he held the post from 2001 to 2003, and the president's vision of crafting a conservative court will probably have to be toned down now. Leahy voted to confirm John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court but against Samuel Alito. Moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, himself no stranger to rankling the administration, will go back to being minority ranking member.