WASHINGTON Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., won a key primary runoff contest Tuesday night, securing the likelihood that Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., will resume his chairmanship of the Banking Committee if Republicans take control of the Senate next year.
Succession on the banking panel was called into question after neither Cochran nor his Tea Party challenger won the requisite 50% of votes needed during an initial primary on June 3. Had the longtime Mississippi lawmaker lost his bid for reelection, Shelby would have been in line to take over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Cochran is currently expected to beat out his Democratic opponent in the general election this November, and thus is expected to take over the committee if the GOP controls the Senate.
Cochran's win all but guarantees that Shelby would return as chairman of the banking panel if Republicans win the chamber, though the Alabama lawmaker has not yet spoken publicly about returning to the position.
"Sen. Shelby's focus remains on ensuring that Republicans win the Senate in November," said Torrie Miller, a Shelby spokeswoman.
He hit his term limit as ranking member on the committee at the end of 2012, when Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, took over, but still has two more years left to serve as chairman under Republican rules. He was previously chairman of the committee from 2003 to 2006.
Shelby would likely focus the committee's efforts back on Dodd-Frank, including changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and could also take up a more conservative approach to housing finance reform.
Current Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is set to retire at the end of the year, opening up the race for the gavel on the Democratic side as well if the party maintains its control of the chamber.
"There will be a significant shift in priorities on the committee no matter which party controls the Senate," said Isaac Boltansky, a policy analysts at Compass Point Research & Trading.