On Wednesday, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) announced that he is not seeking re-election. Lieberman chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the committee having jurisdiction over the USPS and federal employee benefits. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) also announced that he will retire at the end of this Congress. Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee. While the Connecticut Senate seat is likely to stay in the Democratic column, the North Dakota seat will be, at best, a toss-up. The Democrats hold a 53-47 majority. In 2012, of the 33 seats being contested, 4 Democratically-held seats are considered in jeopardy and only 2 GOP seats seem to be at risk. If President Obama wins re-election, the GOP needs 4 seats to regain control of the Senate; but, if the President loses, the GOP needs only 3 seats. In any event, the Vice-President breaks Senate ties.
If the Democrats hold on to the Senate majority, either Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) or Senator Tom Carper (D-HI) would become chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Senator Akaka currently chairs the Subcommittee on Government Management and the Federal Workforce, and has seniority over Carper. However, Sen. Akaka would need to relinquish the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee to assume the new post. Senator Carper, who currently chairs the subcommittee having jurisdiction over the Postal Service, does not chair a full Committee. Both Senators are up for re-election in 2012, and are considered strong favorites. Should the GOP regain control of the Senate, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) would recover her chairmanship.
On the Budget Committee, if the Democrats retain the majority, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) would, in all likelihood, take up the gavel. If the GOP wins control of the Senate, the chairmanship would be assumed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).