WASHINGTON — California’s Sen.-elect, Kamala Harris, won committee assignments Monday that place the Democrat on the front lines of immigration and climate change policy, two areas that likely will put the state into the sharpest conflict with the Trump administration.
Harris is also poised to play a role in one of the only areas that so far shows potential for bipartisan cooperation: infrastructure policy, which deals with roads, bridges, dams, airports and other such projects.
She did not, however, win a seat on the Judiciary Committee, the panel for which she is perhaps best suited as California’s soon-to-be former attorney general and a former San Francisco district attorney. Senate party leaders, who divvy up the committee assignments, avoid naming two members from the same state to any panel. California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, has served on the Judiciary Committee for 24 years and will assume the top Democratic spot on the panel next year.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was the leading Democrat on the committee for years but chose to take the ranking post on the Appropriations Committee. That opened up the leadership role for Feinstein, who will lead Democrats in coming battles over President-elect Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominations.
Senate leadership assigned Harris to four Senate committees in all. They are:
•Homeland Security and Government Affairs: The panel shares jurisdiction over some immigration issues with the Judiciary Committee, which has primary oversight over immigration law. Homeland Security oversees border security and other immigration issues. Harris has said she intends to make defending immigrants and refugees a priority in the Senate.
•Environment and Public Works: Harris will fill the seat of the Californian she replaced, retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer, the committee’s former chair and ranking member. This committee oversees climate change and other environmental policies that the Trump administration and Republican majorities in the Senate and House want to roll back. California will be waging a particularly intense defense of its own climate policies, the most aggressive in the nation. As California’s attorney general, Harris joined other states in defending President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a policy Republicans say they hope to terminate.
This committee also oversees infrastructure policy, which appears to be one area holding potential for bipartisan cooperation. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton both promised during the just-concluded campaign to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. After Trump won, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both singled out infrastructure as an area of potential agreement with the new administration.
•Intelligence Committee: This assignment could put Harris in the middle of the intensifying dispute over allegations of Russian-sponsored hacking in the presidential election. Senators in both parties are calling for a special panel to deal with the issue, but GOP leaders are resisting, saying they want to retain primary jurisdiction over the matter in the Senate and House Intelligence panels.
•Budget Committee: Republican vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act will give the Budget Committee more prominence this year. California, with 3.8 million people enrolled under the program known as Obamacare, stands to be among the biggest losers if the law is repealed. It could potentially cost the state billions of dollars in federal subsidies to help individuals buy insurance on the state’s insurance exchange and for the state’s expansion of Medi-Cal.
Harris will have no seniority as a Senate freshman, but committee assignments shape careers as members gain years in office. Harris described her committee assignments in a written statement as “key battlegrounds in the fight for the future of our country,” adding that she will “aggressively fight for our families and the ideals of our nation.”
Harris will be sworn in Jan. 3.