Senate Republicans Really, Really Don’t Want To Take Over As Ethics Committee Chair

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) during a hearing on February 1, 2017. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
December 1, 2019 12:00 p.m.

With Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) poised to leave the Senate at the end of the year, the chamber’s Ethics Committee will need a new leader.

But few of his Republican colleagues are eager to take the reins.

When asked by the Hill on Saturday if they wanted to fill Isakson’s seat as committee chair, GOP senators emphatically rejected the idea.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who currently serves as the Senate’s Armed Services Committee chair, kept it blunt.

“Are you kidding? Are you kidding?” he said. “I’d rather have a root canal.”

“Nooooo,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told the Hill.

“Oh no, no, no, but I’m sure that the leadership will put somebody in there that’s solid, good, substantive person,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said with a laugh.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was more diplomatic, telling the Hill that he’d already served his time on the committee as vice chair, so “I think I’ll give somebody else the opportunity.”

Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), who currently serve on the committee with Isakson, both stressed objection to potentially being handed the role.

Roberts grumbled about being on the “damn committee” for nearly two decades.

“It’s a Senate record,” he complained. “Everybody else gets on and gets off, and they won’t let me get off.”

Isakson said that though it was an “honor” to lead the committee, it’s also not ideal to be in a position in which you have to investigate your own colleagues.

“Well, sometimes you’re asked to do things you’d rather not have to do because you’re dealing with your colleagues,” he told the Hill.

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