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Scoop: Cassidy could get HELP chair in GOP Senate

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Nov 9, 2022
Bill Cassidy outside the Capitol building

Cassidy at a news conference outside the Capitol last year. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Bill Cassidy is more likely as HELP chair next year rather than Rand Paul if Republicans squeeze out a Senate majority, Senate Republican aides tell Axios.

  • That's because Paul is more likely to take the chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), where he can launch lots of investigations.

Why it matters: The move would avoid a high-profile showdown between Paul and Bernie Sanders, and Cassidy would have a more moderate agenda for the committee — including some bipartisan bills.

Yes, but: If Democrats keep the Senate, the aides say Paul could take the HELP ranking member slot to go up against Chairman Sanders.

What we're watching: Cassidy has a history of working with Democrats on a range of issues.

  • A Cassidy bill with Jeanne Shaheen seeks to increase competition from generic drugs by reforming the citizen petition process, which Cassidy says is often misused to delay the approval of generic competitors.
  • He is teaming with Sen. Chris Murphy to reauthorize and build on a range of mental health programs. Both could be revived.

Yes, but: Cassidy still has a more partisan side, especially with his 2017 work on the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare replacement.

  • During that fight, he sometimes hosted reporters for early-morning slide show presentations in his office, which could make a comeback during a chairmanship.
  • One thing you might not know: Cassidy helped revive the Senate's annual seersucker day, where senators in both parties wear seersucker suits and pose together.

Between the lines: Paul is expected to pick HSGAC because it's more in line with his interests. It's the Senate's oversight committee, which would give Paul a powerful perch where he could target Biden administration figures both inside and outside the health care world.

  • It also avoids the lower-profile, complex, and bipartisan legislative work that HELP is known for. Paul's office didn't respond to requests for comment.
  • "When I return to the Senate, as chairman, I promise you this: The COVID coverup will end. And I promise you this, I will subpoena every last scrap of paper from our friend Dr. Fauci," Paul said in his victory speech Tuesday night. He did not specify which committee he would be chairing.
  • "At HSGAC, you can still subpoena Tony Fauci, but you can subpoena people from across the government," said a former GOP HELP committee aide. "You're not limited to the HELP Committee jurisdiction."
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