Young guns vs. gavels
A guide to the Republican Senate’s new war zones.

The Committee: Appropriations

The Chair: Thad Cochran (Mississippi)

The Lowdown: Cochran can and will use the committee to aid individual senators. During his previous turn as panel chair he made sure the appropriations panel sent billions home to Mississippi for recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Cochran’s Top Bills:

• Funding the government through the end of fiscal ’15. To avoid another partial shutdown, something’s got to happen by Dec. 11 — or else a new deadline must be set if the upcoming lame-duck session with Democrats still in charge punts.

• Emergency money for Ebola, ISIL and other fast-unfolding world events. Obama already asked right after Election Day for $6.2 billion to deal with Ebola in West Africa and to protect the U.S. against the virus’ spread.

• The fiscal ’16 spending bills — Congress’ most fundamental job — remains one of its most challenging, and even with a GOP majority, there’s no guarantee things will change.

Pro Take: There’s only so much Cochran will be able to do to make the appropriations process work. Everything from the order of spending bills moving to the floor to the length of a continuing resolution, to a large degree, will be decided at the leadership level. And anything Cochran manages to pass with 60 votes on the floor — never an easy lift — can’t be pulled too far to the right by House Republicans; otherwise, Obama might not sign it.

Bipartisan Moment: Cochran is in a great spot to help the new Republican majority demonstrate Congress isn’t broken. That means he’ll want to find common ground with Democrats on a couple of big spending bills and figure out a way to handle controversial amendments. While he’ll bring a softer tone to the panel compared with its current chair, Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, he’s also no pushover. “Thad Cochran’s gentility should not be confused with his desire to move legislation,” said Jim Dyer, former House GOP Appropriations staff director.