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Graham set to take over Judiciary

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-S.C.) is poised to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee after Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck Grassley 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision On The Money: Yellen, Powell brush off inflation fears | Fed keeps rates steady, upgrades growth projections MORE (R-Iowa) announced Friday that he would step down to take over the chairmanship of the Finance Committee.

The shuffle would put Graham, a close ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE who made headlines this fall with a forceful denunciation of Democrats during Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare in 7-2 ruling MORE's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in charge of the panel handling judicial nominations.

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Graham is up for reelection in 2020.  

He praised Grassley’s leadership of the committee in a Tweet Friday. 

“I very much appreciate Senate @ChuckGrassley’s leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He chaired the committee with a steady hand, sense of fundamental fairness, and resolve,” Graham tweeted. “His leadership serves as a model to us all.”

In a subsequent statement, Graham said he would make confirming conservative judges a top priority.

“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,” he said.

Graham’s ascension to chairman must be ratified by his GOP colleagues on Judiciary, but that is considered merely a formality.

The South Carolina Republican will also have jurisdiction over the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s investigation into the Trump administration.

Graham met Thursday with Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general whom Trump appointed to replace Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions MORE the day after the election.

Whitaker assured the senator that he saw no reason to fire Mueller, something that has been a top concern of Democrats and some Republicans since Sessions’s resignation. 

“As to Mueller investigation, I’m confident that it is not in jeopardy,” Graham said after meeting with Whitaker. 

Whitaker told Graham that he doesn’t think Mueller’s probe has breached any guidelines.

“There’s no reason to fire him. I asked him, ‘Do you have any reason to [fire] Mr. Mueller. He said he has zero reason to believe anything is being done wrong with the Mueller investigation,” Graham said, recounting the conversation. 

Grassley, who was fiercely criticized by Democrats for his handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination, said he’s looking forward to working on economic issues. 

“The economy is better than it’s been in years and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican President and a Republican majority in Congress,” Grassley said in a statement. “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 said he would focus on passing additional tax relief, expanding markets for farmers, manufacturers and service providers, and reforming health care. 

The Senate Finance Committee is one of the most powerful in Congress. It was at the center of the health care and tax reform debates of 2017 and also has jurisdiction over trade and the major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

-- Updated 1:51 p.m.