Who Will Be The Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member?

Thusfar, no decisions have been made with respect to Sen. Specter’s committee assignments. At least, that’s the official world. But here’s the lay of the land.

As I noted earlier, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)–the senior member of the Judiciary Committee behind (at least until today) Arlen Specter–can not become its ranking member. His staff confirms it. The rules of the Senate Republican Conference forbid it. Hatch was chairman of that committee from 1995-2001 (with a brief interruption in 2001 thanks to Jim Jeffords) and then again from 2003-2005, and conference rules stipulate that “[o]nce a Senator has completed six years as Chairman of a committee, there will be no further opportunity for that Senator to serve as Ranking Member of that same committee if control of the Senate shifts and Republicans go into the Minority.”

Behind Hatch, though, are Sens. Grassley (R-IA), Kyl (R-AZ), and Sessions (R-AL). Let’s tackle them in reverse order.

  1. Sessions is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Admintstrative Oversight and the Courts. He’s been around for a while and he’s a real possibility especially considering the fact that,
  2. Kyl, the GOP whip, is a member of the Senate’s Republican Leadership. I haven’t heard back from his staff yet, but the same rules that are keeping Hatch out would require him to abandon his leadership role.
  3. Which brings us to Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. Grassley served as chairman of that committee in 2001 and again from 2003-2007, which means he’s going to be running up against term limits on that committee fairly soon. Interestingly, though, the senior Republican on Finance is one Orrin Hatch. If Grassley decided to step down as the Finance Committee’s ranking member a little bit early, he could swap out with Hatch and take over as ranking member of Judiciary Committee. Everybody wins.

Those are the most obvious ways forward. I have calls out to all the principles, and will report back if I learn more. But for now people are keeping mum.