Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is poised to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee after Sen. Chuck Grassley (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 Trump who made headlines this fall with a forceful denunciation of Democrats during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in charge of the panel handling judicial nominations.

{mosads}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 Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration.

Graham met Thursday with Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general whom Trump appointed to replace Jeff Sessions 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.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Lindsey Graham Robert Mueller Senate Finance Committee Senate Judiciary Committee Special Counsel investigation Supreme Court

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