- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

Term limits for chairmen and an influx of new members in recent years means some fresh Republican faces will have high positions on Senate committees next year.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will fight over President Bush’s judicial nominations , gained two new vocal conservatives, according to the proposed list of assignments circulated yesterday.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen.-elect Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, are joining what has become the most acrimonious Senate committee. They replace Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican.

Capitol Hill insiders see the changes as a signal that Republican leaders intend to take a hard line against Judiciary Committee Democrats, who have led the filibusters against some of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Democrats won’t fill the committee seat being vacated by outgoing Sen. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat who is retiring after his failed vice-presidential bid, leaving Republicans with a 10-8 advantage on the committee.

Even though they gained four seats, Republicans didn’t expand committee sizes to accommodate the new members, so some senior Republicans had to give up assignments. Democrats, meanwhile, will lose a slot on each committee to reflect their diminished numbers.

Republican Judiciary Committee assignments will be approved by the full Senate Republican Conference in January.

One of those quickly ascending the seniority ladder is Mr. Chambliss, beginning his third year in the Senate, who will become chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

Four Republicans have more seniority on the committee than Mr. Chambliss, but each has a leadership position or another committee chairmanship he did not want to give up.

Republicans limit their chairmen to six years in the post.

Some freshman scored senior slots for next year. Sen.-elect Richard M. Burr of North Carolina will be sixth-most senior of the 12 Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and fifth of 11 senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Sen.-elect John Thune of South Dakota won a coveted spot on the Armed Services Committee, while Sen.-elect Mel Martinez of Florida will take an open seat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

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