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Chuck Grassley opts to cede Judiciary Committee chairmanship

The Iowa senator's decision means that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will likely be the panel's next chair.
Senator Chuck Grassley speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on Sept. 18, 2018.
Grassley said he plans to serve instead as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley announced Friday that he plans to cede the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, becoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee instead.

“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, who’s set to become Senate pro tempore in the next Congress, said in a statement. "That means working to provide Americans with additional tax relief and tax fairness so they can spend more of their hard-earned money on what’s important to them.”

The Iowa Republican has served as chairman of the judiciary panel since January 2015. Senate Republican Conference rules limit service as chairman and ranking member to six years, which means Grassley is eligible to serve as the Finance Committee’s chairman for one full congressional session.

Grassley’s decision to step aside comes after the high-stakes battle over the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who ultimately was confirmed despite allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., serves as the ranking member on the committee.

The announcement means that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — a vocal member on the panel who has been a fierce defender of President Donald Trump and his policies — is likely to be the panel's next chair.

“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," Graham said in a statement Friday. “Finally, I will continue to seek common sense, bipartisan solutions to major issues facing our nation.”

The Judiciary Committee provides oversight of the Department of Justice and the agencies within it such as the FBI, as well as the Department of Homeland Security. It also weighs judicial nominations made by the president, voting on whether to send them to the full Senate for confirmation.