Senate Committee chairs are powerful positions which are determined by Democratic party leadership based on seniority, expertise and proven interest.
Since the U.S. Senate was intentionally designed to be the more deliberative of the two houses of Congress, much Senate business is accomplished by its 16 standing committees and 4 special committees, including the review of bills, approval or blocking of presidential nominations, and oversight of the executive branch.
(Also read U.S. Senate Democratic Leadership Team, 2009 to 2011.)
U.S. Senate's committees will be chaired in the 111th Congress by the following:
Judiciary Committee - Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, now serving his sixth Senate term. All federal judiciary which must pass this committee before Senate approval. Leahy voted for John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but against Samuel Alito to be Associate Justice.
Foreign Relations Committee - Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, replacing Joe Biden who resigned from Delaware's Senate seat to become Vice President.
Reelected in 2008 to a fifth Senate term, John Kerry first came to national prominence with his Famed 1971 Testimony to Congress on Vietnam. Kerry was the 2004 Democratic nominee for the presidency.
Appropriations Committee - Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, replacing longtime chair, Sen. Robert Byrd who, at 91 years old, is the longest serving senator in U.S. history. Byrd was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1959.
Budget Committee - Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, now serving his fourth full Senate term, is a renowned advocate of fiscal discipline and a fierce defender of the integrity of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
Homeland Security Committee- Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, now serving his fourth Senate term. his first as an Independent. Despite actively supporting Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election, Senate Democrats voted to allow Lieberman to retain this prestigious Senate seat in the 111th Congress.
Environment & Public Works Committee - Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, now serving her third Senate term, promises hearings on global warming and the impact of toxics on public health.
Energy & Natural Resources Committee - Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico , now serving his fifth Senate term, is a strong advocate of energy conservation and preservation of natural resources.
Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee - Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, now serving his eighth full Senate term, was co-author of the No Child Left Behind Act, although he strongly objected to Bush Administration underfundng of the act.
Sen. Kennedy's main 2009 legislative goal is for passage of a bill providing health care for all Americans.
Armed Forces Committee - Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, reelected in 2008 to his sixth Senate term, led an unsuccessful effort in June 2006 to pass a resolution urging President Bush to begin withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Levin is the longest-serving U.S. Senator ever elected from Michigan
Select Committee on Intelligence - Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, now serving her third full term in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein is widely respected as an astute voice of authority and reasoned moderation, and an intelligence expert.
Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee - Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, now serving his fifth Senate term
Rules & Administration Committee - Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
Agriculture Committee - Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, now serving his third Senate term
Veterans Affairs Committee - Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, now serving his third full Senate term
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee - Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, reelected in 2008 to her third Senate term.
Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee - Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia
Finance Committee - Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, now serving his fifth Senate term,
Indian Affairs Committee - Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, now serving his third Senate term
Select Committee on Ethics - Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, now serving his second Senate term
Select Committee on Aging - Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, now serving his fourth Senate term