Chuck Grassley plans to trade his Senate Judiciary Committee gavel to lead the Finance Committee next year, he said on Friday — leaving Lindsey Graham in line to replace him as chairman.
Grassley’s move to Finance wasn’t a given, since the Judiciary panel has played an outsized role in the successful confirmation of more than 80 of President Donald Trump’s nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. That number could include future Supreme Court justices beyond Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the next Congress, heightening the influence of the Judiciary chairman.
But Grassley, a former Finance chairman, opted to return to a committee that also enjoys extensive jurisdiction, including taxes and trade as well as Medicare and Medicaid. The Iowa Republican is set to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) as Finance chief next year, while also replacing him as Senate pro tem, a post traditionally given to the longest-serving majority senator that is also third in the presidential line of succession.
“The economy is better than it’s been in years and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican President and a Republican majority in Congress,” Grassley said. “Looking ahead, at the Finance Committee, I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves.”
Grassley’s departure paves the way for Graham to take the helm at Judiciary, giving the South Carolina Republican valuable power over Department of Justice confirmations — including the next attorney general. It also gives the next chairman oversight of the DOJ as it supervises special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump.
While Graham’s ascension won’t be official until the next Congress begins, he openly acknowledged his interest in the Judiciary gavel this summer and predicted that “there’s a deal to be had” on immigration.
Even after battling more right-leaning primary challenges in the past, Graham has displayed a bipartisan streak, aligning with Democrats on Judiciary to steer legislation protecting Mueller’s job through the committee.
But Graham also has proven a reliable partner for Trump, passionately defending Kavanaugh during the high court justice’s sexual misconduct scandal and indicating that he would probe the FBI’s own handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation should he become Judiciary chairman.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine