Senate Republicans on Tuesday officially approved Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, advancing him to the job formerly held by party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.).
Specter announced last week that he was leaving the Republican Party after more than 40 years and joining the Democratic ranks. He will remain on the Judiciary Committee as a Democrat.
Sessions’ job as Judiciary ranking member is expected to last until the end of the 111th Congress, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is term-limited as ranking member of the Finance Committee, takes over. At that point, under a deal hatched over the weekend with Grassley, Sessions would then take the top GOP job on the Budget Committee.
Sessions’ role on the Judiciary panel comes as the committee prepares to consider President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee. Obama is on the cusp of nominating a replacement for Associate Justice David Souter, who announced his retirement last week.
In the immediate term, the Judiciary panel is expected to hear from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano during an oversight hearing on Wednesday, which will likely be Sessions’ first official tour as the ranking member.