Sen. Charles E. Grassley announced Friday he’ll become chairman of the Finance Committee next year, creating a domino effect that leaves Sen. Lindsey Graham as the likely chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Grassley, who’s also in line to become Senate president pro tempore, had the option to stay at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, but opted to return to the Finance Committee, where he’s also a senior member.
During his time as chairman on Judiciary, he shepherded both of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees through the confirmation process, as well as setting a record for most circuit appeals court nominees confirmed in a president’s first Congress.
Now, that role will likely fall to Mr. Graham, who has already signaled some of the changes he’ll make, including a stern approach to Democrats’ efforts to block nominees.
Mr. Graham praised Mr. Grassley’s leadership of the committee, saying he serves as a model and led with a “steady hand.”
“If I am fortunate enough to be selected by my colleagues to serve as Chairman, I will push for the appointment and Senate confirmation of highly qualified conservative judges to the federal bench and aggressive oversight of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Mr. Graham said in a press release.
Mr. Graham made headlines amid the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh with an angry denunciation of Democrats’ tactics.
He lambasted his colleagues across the aisle for how they handled the sexual misconduct allegation brought by California professor Christine Blasey Ford against the nominee, where they withheld her letter to the committee for two months, waiting until the 11th hour to bring it forward.
“If I am chairman next year, if we keep the majority and Senator Grassley moves over … I’m going to remember this,” Mr. Graham said during the hearing. “There is the process before Kavanaugh, and the process after Kavanaugh.”
Mr. Graham even went out on the campaign trail ahead of the midterms, campaigning against vulnerable red-state Democrats who voted against Judge Kavanaugh.
He also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month that if he becomes the committee’s leader, Democrats wouldn’t be able to use a Senate tradition known as a blue slip, which is a piece of paper usually returned to the committee showing approval of a judicial nominee from their home state, as a way to delay or veto one of the president’s judicial picks.
The South Carolina Republican, though, did say he sees a bipartisan way forward on an immigration fix and prison reform if he’s chairman.
The top Democrat on Judiciary, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said she would be able to work well with Mr. Graham on any area, and fellow committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said he thought Mr. Graham would be a “distinguished chair.”
Liberal advocacy groups, though, were not eager for Mr. Graham to take control over processing Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees.
“Senator Graham’s theatrics during the Kavanaugh hearings were reprehensible,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way.
“I think the way in which he horribly and so disrespectfully dismissed Dr. Ford’s allegations and the threatening tone he used against the Democrats — his colleagues who were doing their job — was just really frightening,” she added.