New Mexico won’t have the most senior delegation when the 113th Congress convenes early next year, but it will have a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat entering the fifth year of his first six-year term, learned today that he will be among the newest members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a critical seat for states such as New Mexico that are heavily dependent on federal money.
Udall will have a very full plate in the coming Congress. In addition to appropriations, he’ll serve on the Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works, Indian Affairs and Rules and Administration Committees.
“A seat on the Appropriations Committee is very meaningful for New Mexico,” said Udall. “From the labs, to the military bases and our public lands, we have a large federal presence in our state. I have no illusions about the difficult economic times and budgetary constraints our nation is facing, and I am eager to do my best and defend New Mexico through the appropriations process.”
Meanwhile, incoming freshman Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich landed a seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Sen. Jeff Bingman, D-N.M., has chaired since 2006. Heinrich was angling for a seat on the energy or Armed Services Committee. Heinrich will also serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senate leaders typically give freshman members a lighter load than more senior members.
Udall, a former congressman, has been angling for a Senate appropriations seat since he won election to the Senate in 2008. He was initially reluctant to leave the U.S. House and run for the Senate because he had been appointed to the House Appropriations Committee. While an appropriations seat is significant it doesn’t carry quite the same weight as it might have even three or four years ago, before Congress abolished earmarks and the nation’s debt crisis became so pronounced.
Nevertheless, having a member on an appropriations committee in either chamber is still a big deal for any state, and especially those like New Mexico that have a heavy federal government presence. Some New Mexico political observers – including this one – have been concerned about what the resignations of Bingaman, and before him, former Sen. Pete Domenici (a longtime appropriator), would have on the state. The delegation’s seniority is still greatly diminished but Udall’s appropriations seat should help ease at least some of the pain for New Mexico.
It’s also worth noting that Udall is widely expected to run for re-election in 2014 and a Senate Appropriations assignment is a significant testament to a senator’s clout in Washington. I would expect Udall to trumpet this assignment loudly as he gears up for re-election.
The anticipated committee assignments are subject to approval by the full Democratic caucus and an organizing resolution by the full Senate when the 113th Congress convenes in January.