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Sessions, Grassley in Sync’ on Judiciary Ranking Membership

Updated 6:47 p.m.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Monday that he and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are “in sync— on the agreement that the duo struck to allow Sessions to serve as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee for the remainder of the 111th Congress.

Under their agreement, Grassley will assume the top Republican spot on Judiciary in 2011, with Sessions becoming the ranking member on the Budget Committee. Sessions said the plan must still be ratified by the full GOP Conference.

“Sen. Grassley and I are in sync on how we think the matter ought to be handled. It will just be up to our colleagues to affirm that,— Sessions said.

Grassley, currently the ranking member on the Finance Committee, also confirmed the deal appeared to be set but was hesitant to comment beyond that.

“Whatever [Sessions] told you is accurate,— Grassley said.

Sessions, a former judge who was once nominated for the federal bench and rejected by a Democratic Senate, said he was disinclined to support filibusters of judicial nominees absent extraordinary circumstances.

The Alabama Republican said that the minority has a responsibility to ensure that President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court is qualified but that it was important that the confirmation process be fair.

“I think in the past too often that people have been inaccurate and unfair to the nominee on both sides, and I don’t think that’s correct,— Sessions said. “I think the nominee shouldn’t have their record distorted or [have] things be inaccurately stated.—

Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Obama has tried to personally reassure him that he does not intend to nominate an extreme liberal to succeed Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Hatch said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week— that he is concerned that Obama would tap an “activist— judge who would legislate from the bench.

“He called to reassure me because apparently he saw my interview [Sunday] on George Stephanopoulos’ show, and he just wanted to make it very clear that he believes in the rule of law and that he’s not going to pick some radical,— Hatch said. “He said he’s pragmatic about it and will try and make a good pick that he thinks most people will be happy with.—

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