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Grassley faces new committee choice
Among all the reshufflings set to occur in the wake of Sen. Arlen Specter’s (Pa.) surprise switch Tuesday to the Democratic Party, it looks like Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) will be next in line to replace Specter as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Although Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has seniority over Grassley on the panel, GOP term-limit rules prevent Hatch from taking over the ranking member spot.)
It’s a position Grassley covets, but there’s also a major complication. Namely, Grassley is currently the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and GOP conference rules forbid him from serving as ranking member of both panels at the same time, a Senate aide said Tuesday. Theoretically, he could get a waiver to serve on both, but that’s unlikely, the aide said.
So very shortly, Grassley has a tough choice to make: Either he can remain the senior Republican on Finance — a powerful spot this year with comprehensive health reforms looming, but also a position he’ll have to give up at the end of 2010 because of GOP term-limit rules — or he can accept the top GOP spot on Judiciary.
It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. Earlier this year, Grassley said he’d be willing to pass up the chance to become ranking member of Judiciary in order to help Specter, who was facing a tough reelection contest next year. Instead, Grassley indicated that he’d take the top GOP spot on the Senate Budget Committee, where Republican term limit rules will force Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to step down from the senior position at the end of 2010.
“From my heart, I’d rather have Judiciary than Budget,” Grassley told CQ last month. “But out of respect for Specter, I might take Budget.”
Now, with Specter’s exodus from the GOP, the Judiciary spot is suddenly open. Grassley can have it, but it would likely come at the price of his perch on Finance. No word yet what he intends to do.
Mike Lillis covers Congress for the Washington Independent, a Center for Independent Media site.