WASHINGTON - If political clout was a stock, then Missouri’s took a tumble in Tuesday’s election, and in Kansas it appears to have taken a nose dive.
Missouri will lose nearly 60 years of Capitol Hill experience as of January.
Kansas will send three freshmen to Washington in its four-member, all-Republican House delegation. That includes Kevin Yoder, who won the 3rd Congressional District seat. The fourth House member in the delegation, Rep. Lynn Jenkins from the 2nd District, has only been there two years.
“It is absolutely the case that we’ve a got very junior delegation here in Kansas,” said Mike Pompeo, the Republican congressman-elect from 4th District around Wichita. “Having said that, we’ve elected a pretty capable group which is prepared to go there to do the things we told voters we were going to do.”
Only Sen. Pat Roberts, a three-term Republican, has significant standing now in the Kansas delegation. But he’ll still be in the minority since Democrats retained control of the Senate.
“Kansas will suffer a little when it comes to things like grants and earmarks for the state,” said Allan Cigler, who teaches political science at the University of Kansas.
So could Missouri.
Both states will be losing veteran Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations committees. Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri is retiring after 24 years on Capitol Hill. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas ran for governor and won, and Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas ran for the Senate instead of for re-election, but lost the primary.
All three have been ranking members of appropriations subcommittees, a perch that's given them considerable influence over federal spending and opportunities to take care of their states.
For all the heated debate over the economy and health care reform, issues that contributed to Tuesday’s congressional upheaval, some of the fallout will be felt back home in more immediate ways.
The defeat of Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, one of the longest-serving Democrats in the House and chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, is a case in point.
Skelton has been a leading voice on defense and a protector of Missouri’s military bases. They have provided jobs and other economic benefits. Among other things, he helped bring the B-2 Bomber wing to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster.
Military installations, like Whiteman and Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, frequently undergo the threat of closure as the Pentagon looks for savings. Skelton, it should be noted, carried Pulaski County, even as other Democrats on the ballot fared poorly there. “The members with the greatest juice are the ones able to protect the bases from base closures,” said Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, the next speaker of the House, has promised Republican Vicky Hartzler, who ousted Skelton, a seat on the Armed Services committee.
Bond, meanwhile, has been one of the Senate’s top users of earmarks, the controversial practice of slipping money for local communities into legislation without oversight or a vote.
Roads, bridges, health centers and other projects throughout Missouri all bear his fingerprints. He gained nearly $100 million worth of earmarks this year.
Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, who won Bond’s seat, is an experienced Capitol Hill insider, having served in top leadership positions in the House. He is also a practiced user of earmarks, sending $15 million in projects back to Missouri in 2010.
“They will miss Bond,” said Richard Fulton, who teaches political science at Northwest Missouri State University. “He brings home a lot of goodies. But you still have a Republican (Blunt) who knows well the ins and outs of Washington. Missouri will lose some clout, but it’s not as bad as it might be.”
The Republican takeover of the House also puts Rep. Sam Graves in the 6th District, north of Kansas City, in line to lead the House Small Business Committee.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in the 8th District is poised to head an Appropriations subcommittee on financial issues.
Rep. Todd Akin from the 2nd District is likely to take over an Armed Services subcommittee on sea power. Rep. Brent Leutkemeyer in the 9th District is positioned to lead a Small Business subcommittee on rural and urban entrepreneurship.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri will remain in charge of a government contracting oversight panel since her party still controls the Senate.
Cleaver, re-elected to a fourth term, is a leading candidate to become head of the Congressional Black Caucus in January.
Kansas will also have a new freshman senator in Rep. Jerry Moran, who won the seat that Brownback is giving up.
During seven terms in the House, Moran gained a reputation as someone who didn’t always bend to the needs of his party leadership. How that might impact his role in the Senate is unknown. But with several new Republican senators elected under the tea party banner, Moran might be the least of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s worries.
As for the Kansas House delegation, its new members could have an advantage in committee assignments, despite their lack of congressional experience. Each won by at least 59 percent of the vote.
Party leaderships are sometime hesitant to assign politically weak members to some committees, like Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Financial Services, where they could be forced to take some controversial votes.
“You’ve got to have the political strength to make some tough decisions when you’re on those committees,” said Howard Bauleke, chief of staff for retiring Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore of Kansas. “The new Kansas members may be perceived as being stronger and they may have a better shot at those, which is good for Kansas.”