New GOP leader on Judiciary could mean tougher confirmation

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a stalwart conservative will replace Sen. Arlen Specter as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Published May 4, 2009 5:40PM (EDT)

It's not official yet, but it appears that Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., will be taking over as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, replacing Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who vacated the post when he switched parties. It's a temporary move, just until the next Congress convenes in 2011, but it's still one that could have a significant effect, especially on one issue currerntly in the news: The confirmation of a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Where Specter might have at least moderated the opposition to President Obama's eventual nominee, or perhaps even supported the choice outright, Sessions is likely to take a hardline stance in opposition. He's a staunch conservative who was, for that reason, the favorite of conservative activists to take over the job.

Sessions has his own experience with the Judiciary Committee rejecting a nominee. In 1986, President Reagan chose him for a spot on the federal bench, but the committee stopped his nomination from going to the Senate floor over concerns about his attitudes on race.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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