Committee chair reshuffling could give Landrieu 'Energy'

by Leslie Turk

Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.

If President Barack Obama's appointment of Republican Sen. Max Baucus of Montana as ambassador to China wins Senate confirmation, Baucus' powerful Finance Committee chairmanship will likely go to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden based on seniority. And that leaves Wyden's seat as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee open. Next in line is likely Louisiana's three-term senator, Mary Landrieu. (While Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a Dem senator from South Dakota, outranks Landrieu on the energy committee, a Banking Committee aide told the National Journal Johnson probably won't seek the post.)

Landrieu's potential January ascension to Energy Committee chair would be a major boost to the Democratic senator, who faces a tough re-election battle in 2014 for her fourth six-year term. It might also cause some Republicans in the oilfield (and outside of it) who have gotten behind her major challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, to rethink their strategy.

Former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, a Democrat Landrieu replaced after winning the 1996 Senate race, was the last Louisiana senator to chair the Energy Committee.

The Times-Picayune reported that Baucus had planned to retire in early January 2015, the end of his current term. But several sources told the paper he has decided to leave early if he wins confirmation to the ambassador's job in China.

Landrieu's press office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Read more about Landrieu's upcoming race here.