BOISE – If Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate next year, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo could become chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, a panel with broad jurisdiction over the nation’s financial institutions, insurance, the housing industry, securities markets and more.
But that’s a big “if.”
“It’s probably around a 50-50 chance at this point in time. But until they get an actual nominee for president, we’re not going to have really great odds on this,” said Joshua Huder, a senior fellow with the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown Industry, which tracks Congress.
Crapo is circumspect about his chances.
“I have a shot at that if I’m re-elected, and if the Republicans maintain the majority,” he said.
Crapo is seeking re-election to a fourth six-year term in the Senate. He’s unopposed in the GOP primary. In the general election in November, he’ll face Boise businessman and first-time candidate Jerry Sturgill, a Democrat.
Crapo serves on both the Banking and the Finance committees. The latter oversees all revenue including taxes, plus most entitlement programs including Medicare and Medicaid, and has jurisdiction over about 60 percent of all federal spending. There, Crapo is the No. 3 most-senior Republican.
But on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, he’s in line to be the senior Republican next year, as current Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama is in his sixth and final year as chair.
“That’s a big, big policy area – it’s a committee with significant jurisdiction,” Huder said. “It’s not one of the top four committees in the Senate, but close to like fifth or sixth. It has significant influence in power over a broad jurisdiction, and he would be able to have a lot of influence on all of those areas.”
A chairman’s power in the Senate, Huder said, is significant because of his ability to push bills to a vote and his links to Congressional leadership.
“As a policy starter, as an agenda setter, he could definitely do a lot of things within the banking community, the credit community, a lot of other businesses, the ability to get loans,” Huder said.
But Huder sees tough going for Republicans to hold the Senate.
“Republicans definitely have their backs against the wall,” he said. “They are defending 24 of the 34 Senate races this fall,” including some high-profile races around the country in states that backed Barack Obama for president in 2012.
Obama’s approval rating is above 50 percent for the first time in three years, Huder said, and the economy is adding jobs.
“All of this flies in the face of Republican odds of holding the chamber,” he said.
Then there’s the presidential race.
“Ted Cruz or Donald Trump may be a drag on the down-ballot races such as Senate,” Huder said. “So the chances of them holding the chamber are not phenomenal.”
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