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D.C. Download: How will congressional retirements benefit the Nevada delegation?

If Nevada’s members make it through the 2024 election, they stand to gain seniority in their respective committees.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
CongressD.C. DownloadGovernmentNewsletters

Have you heard about the recent spate of congressional retirements? Despite D.C.’s reputation as a pudding factory that elderly politicians refuse to quit, a number of high-profile members — think committee chairs and influential caucus figures — have announced plans to hang it up. Thus far, that doesn’t include any Nevadans — making the delegation primed to climb the seniority ladder if they can hang onto their seats.

The News of the Week: Congressional retirements 

Regardless of whether the House or Senate flip party control, 2025 will mark somewhat of a new era for both chambers when a number of powerful members of Congress leave — by choice. That includes committee chairs of several influential panels.

Power in the Capitol is often contingent on seniority — one of the reasons lawmakers are so incentivized to stick around. The longer a member is in Congress and sits on a committee, the more seniority they accrue. 

Chairmanships are frequently given to a senior member of a committee, with subcommittee chairmanships going to other longtime members. The pace of retirements in the House thus far is about average, but more are expected over the next several months.

None of Nevada's six delegation members are planning to retire; barring a surprise retirement (or more likely an election loss), retirements represent an opportunity for them to raise their profiles within their committees. 

Read on to see how we can game theory-out different scenarios for Nevada’s members of Congress come 2025.

The Nevada Angle

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Years in Senate: 7

Senate seniority ranking: 71/100

Cortez Masto is already a subcommittee chair on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, and with committee Chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) retiring, there’s a power vacuum to fill at the top of the Democratic roster.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) is the most senior member of the committee who does not already hold a chairmanship of another committee, and, according to E&E News, is expected to become the next chairman or ranking member, depending on whether Democrats retain the Senate. 

Despite being eighth in seniority out of 10 members, Cortez Masto has already vaulted ahead of some of her peers in receiving the subcommittee gavel. Look for her influence to grow on the committee — which is where Nevada’s lands bills are assigned and where much of the Inflation Reduction Act originated.

Additionally, Cortez Masto is the second-lowest ranking member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which handles tax and trade policy. But three Senate Democrats ahead of her are retiring and a fourth, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), is likely to lose his primary after a corruption scandal. Among the panel’s retirees are three subcommittee chairs, giving her a better shot at potentially landing one of those posts.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Years in Senate: 5

Senate seniority ranking: 77/100

If Rosen can hang onto her seat, she may be in line for a bigger role in two smaller committees: Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Small Business.

On the Homeland Security Committee, Rosen is already fifth in seniority. With Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) retiring and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) yet to decide if she will run in a three-way race with long odds, Rosen could vault into third, increasing her chances of chairing or serving as the ranking member of a subcommittee. 

On the Small Business Committee, meanwhile, Chair Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is expected to take over the Foreign Affairs Committee due to retirements, leaving the top job open. Rosen is ninth out of 10 among committee members in seniority, but with one member retiring and two others already chairing committees, she could see her profile on the committee expand.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Years in House: 13

House seniority ranking: 119/435

Titus ranks eighth out of 30 Democratic members on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, high enough that the longtime congresswoman is the ranking member of a subcommittee focused on federal buildings. With one member ahead of her on the committee roster retiring, Titus is set to move up another spot and should be in line to chair a subcommittee, as she did in the prior two Congresses, if Democrats retake the House. 

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Years in Congress: 12

House seniority ranking: 114/435

Amodei this Congress achieved a long-awaited goal for members of the Appropriations Committee — where spending bills originate — when he was named a cardinal, one of the 12 most senior members of the committee who each get to lead the drafting of one of the spending bills. Amodei ranks 12th on the committee among Republicans and is cardinal of the smallest of the 12 subcommittees — the panel that handles funding for the legislative branch.

But with Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) retiring, other cardinals will jockey for her seat as the committee’s top Republican — including transportation and infrastructure cardinal Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and labor, health and human services and education cardinal Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). Elevating someone to either chair or ranking member will open up at least one spot among cardinals, while another is facing a tough re-election.

Regardless, the need for a new top Republican appropriator will require some reshuffling of cardinal positions, and Amodei could end up with a different post within the committee, dealing with a larger bill. If Democrats take the House, Amodei would be a subcommittee ranking member rather than a cardinal.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV)

Years in House: 5

House seniority ranking: 256/435

Lee is currently the second-lowest ranking Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee, but she stands to move up the seniority list quite a bit if she wins re-election. Five Democratic members ahead of her are retiring; if Democrats take the House, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), who serves in party leadership, would also likely be bypassed to become a cardinal.

That all means Lee’s position on the committee would be elevated — and if in the majority, she would likely get to add another subcommittee membership within the Appropriations Committee to her roster, going from serving on two subcommittees to three.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)

Years in House: 7

House seniority ranking: 229/435

It’s no secret that Horsford, who lost his seat on the coveted Ways & Means Committee when Democrats lost the House last year, wants back on the tax-writing panel.

Two Democrats are retiring, making Horsford’s return to the panel likely — unless Democrats lose badly in 2024 and their overall numbers on the committee are significantly slashed. 2025 is a good year to write tax law — it’s when most of the 2017 Trump tax cuts expire. 

The Impact

While committee assignments and seniority are fairly inside baseball, accruing seniority and getting closer to chairmanships matter — the associated power allows Nevada’s members to more easily direct funding to the state, allow Nevadans to come testify in front of committees about issues they care about and influence legislation that affects their constituents. 

Around the Capitol

💰SAVEing the day — The first state numbers are out from President Joe Biden’s student loan debt cancellation program, and 1,650 Nevadans benefitted from a combined $13.9 million in debt wiped out Friday.

The SAVE program, which allows students to reduce their loan burden and cancels them if they have been paying off loans for at least 10 years and the principal was less than $12,000, took effect Friday. Those who enrolled in SAVE and have had their loans canceled should have received an email from the president Wednesday notifying them that their remaining loans have been forgiven and that no further action is required. 

🏛️Leading the bipartisan pack — Both Rosen and Lee were listed among the Democrats most likely to break from their party in a CQ / Roll Call vote analysis.

On the Senate side, Rosen broke with the majority of Democrats 5.3 percent of the time, ranking third among Senate Democrats behind only Manchin and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Rosen is fourth when Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent, is added.

Lee, meanwhile, votes against the majority of Democrats 8.9 percent of the time — good for 12th among House Democrats. 

💬The messaging game — Titus told Forbes that she thinks it’s time for Democrats to drop the “Bidenomics” messaging, saying it’s both difficult to say and define. Titus has previously said she’d be happy to talk about “Bidenomics” because the policies are effective — a stance she reiterated to Forbes while saying the exact branding was no longer useful.

Still, the National Republican Campaign Committee clipped the exchange on Twitter, referring to Titus’ rhetoric as a “cleanup.”

Notable and Quotable:

“Do you think that Sam Brown, who endorses Donald Trump 100 percent, is going to go against what Donald Trump wants?”

— Sen. Jacky Rosen, a day before her likely 2024 opponent Sam Brown said he would not support a national abortion ban

What I’m Reading

CNN: Inside Kamala Harris’ quiet effort to break through the Biden campaign’s information bubble

In which Horsford is urging the Biden campaign to drop the “Bidenomics” language and talk about affordable housing, and Harris wants California state legislators to start helping Nevada Democrats.

The Nevada Independent: Nevada Senate fundraising: Rosen donors more active, hail from more states than Brown’s

I am not a #WomanInSTEM, so I’m so happy that my colleague Eric Neugeboren has the data skills to analyze donations to both Rosen’s and Brown’s campaigns. As it turns out, Nevada Senate donors and Montana Senate donors are re-creating the Spiderman pointing meme in both parties.

KUNR: Sen. Fetterman headlines packed Washoe County Dems fundraiser in Reno

CCM-Fetterman outfit swap when?

Staffing Announcements

Maddy Pawlak is joining the Biden campaign’s communications team in Nevada. She previously served as communications director for Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) and worked on Biden’s 2020 campaign in Minnesota. 

If you have a new position in Nevada politics, reach out and let me know! 

This story was updated at 2 p.m. on 3/22/2024 to correct the spelling of Pawlak's last name.


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