Leahyís move will open up the Judiciary panel for California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, a gun control advocate who renewed her push to ban assault weapons in the wake of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
Feinstein effectively conceded that she would end up with the Judiciary Committee post, telling reporters Tuesday that she expects the Intelligence Committee to be chaired by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., in the next Congress, implying that Feinstein would vacate that post for a broader policy portfolio at Judiciary.
Mikulski has not yet served as the chairwoman of a full, standing committee of the Senate, despite being the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress. Thatís because in her other key committee assignments, she has been in line behind several long-standing senators.
Mikulski has the chance to take the Intelligence gavel because Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has decided to continue with his plan to serve as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress, according to a Democratic source. The energy panel chairmanship will be vacant because of the retirement of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
Leahy has served on the traditionally powerful Judiciary Committee since 1977. At the Appropriations panel, Leahyís immediate work will be moving a supplemental spending bill (HR 1) through the Senate, and his work in the first quarter of next year will focus on developing legislation to fund the government for the second half of the current fiscal year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday afternoon that the Democratic caucus had discussed the changes, but the Nevada Democrat declined to give details beyond saying final decisions would be announced Wednesday.