Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman

Greg Nash

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) will be the next chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.

The panel’s current chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), is set to retire next year, creating a vacancy atop the panel that is responsible for enforcing standards of behavior for senators and their staffs and investigating potential violations of federal law or the Senate’s rules.

The decision about who to name chairman of the committee rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The Senate Republican Conference is expected to vote next week to formally ratify the decision, the source told The Hill. 

Spokespeople for Lankford declined to comment, saying they didn’t want to get ahead of an announcement from McConnell. Politico was first to report the decision. 

The six-member panel has had high-profile investigations in recent years, including in 2018 when it “severely admonished” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in a public letter, saying he had broken Senate rules, federal law and “applicable standards of conduct.”   

The committee also opened an investigation in 2017 into then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who ultimately resigned facing several allegations of sexual misconduct and unwanted touching. 

The responsibility for investigating your own colleagues made leading the Senate Ethics Committee an unattractive post for several GOP senators.  

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told The Hill that he would “rather have a root canal” than lead the committee. 

The two other Republican senators currently on the panel, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), also indicated to The Hill that they were not interested in chairing the committee. 

“I’ve been on the damn committee for now, what, 22 years? It’s a Senate record. Everybody else gets on and gets off, and they won’t let me get off,” Roberts said. 

Risch said, “I can only tell you that I sure hope not.”

Tags Al Franken Bob Menendez chairman James Lankford Jim Inhofe Jim Risch Johnny Isakson Mitch McConnell Pat Roberts Robert Menendez Senate Ethics Committee

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