Senators may shift committees after Inouye's death
Leahy to chair Senate Appropriations Committee, becomes president pro tempore
High-ranking Democratic senators may shift committees following the death Monday of longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye, who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
The senior Democrat on the spending panel is considering taking over as chairman, a Democratic source said. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont currently chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position he would have to give up if he took over Appropriations. If he does, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, currently the chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee is poised to take over the Judiciary panel, another Democratic aide said. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over gun control laws, an issue Feinstein has championed.
It wasn't immediately clear who would take over as chair of the Intelligence Committee if Feinstein moves.
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid was expected to announce the change Tuesday but held off because Leahy is still weighing whether to leave Judiciary.
Both Leahy and Feinstein are closely associated with the committees they chair currently. Leahy, who has headed the Judiciary panel since 2007, has overseen the confirmation hearings for hundreds of judicial nominations, including for current Supreme Court associate justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. As a member of the Senate he's voted on every current justice on the high court.
With Inouye's death, Leahy also became the most senior Democratic senator, meaning he assumes the role of president pro tempore in the Senate. The constitutional designation means he's third in line to the presidency, after Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. Biden officially swore Leahy in as president pro tempore Tuesday.
Feinstein has been the face of the Senate's intelligence oversight operation since 2009, when she took over the chairmanship of the committee. Most recently she has pushed for more information from the FBI on the scandal ensnaring former CIA director David Petraeus.
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