Three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including two former chairmen, have officially left the panel with the passage Wednesday night of the Senate’s organizing resolutions. Three Democrats, two of whom are lawyers, are replacing them.
The departures of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Vice President Joe Biden have been expected for more than a month, since Kennedy announced that he wants to focus on healthcare and since Biden was elected on the national ticket. Kennedy was chairman from 1979 to 1981 and Biden from 1987 to 1995. Both have been fixtures during confirmation hearings for nominees for the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice.
Kennedy served on the committee for 46 years, longer than any other senator in history.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is the third senator leaving the committee—making way for a larger Democratic margin after Democrats’ gains in November—but Brownback is leaving the Senate after 2010 anyway. He is running for governor of Kansas.
The size of the committee is staying the same, at 19 members—a likely relief to committee staff who just oversaw a recent renovation of the committee’s hearing room to accommodate 19 members. Democrats’ margin will increase from 10-9 to 11-8, giving them breathing room on controversial issues.
The three new members are Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Kaufman, 69, has taken Biden’s Senate seat and is expected to stay for only two years. He worked for Biden from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff. He has a bachelor’s degree from Duke and an MBA from Wharton, making him one of the committee’s few non-lawyers.
Klobuchar, 48, was elected in 2006. After college at Yale and law school at Chicago, she worked in private practice in Minneapolis for 13 years. In 1998, she was elected prosecutor in Hennepin County, Minn., of which Minneapolis is the county seat.
Wyden, 59, has been in the Senate since February 1996, filling the seat vacated by Bob Packwood. He served 15 years in the House. After college at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Stanford and law school at the University of Oregon, he taught and worked with non-profit groups.
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the three have followed the committee’s proceedings on Eric Holder Jr.’s nomination to be attorney general and will be ready to vote on his nomination Jan. 28.
In the 110th Congress, one ranking showed Klobuchar and Wyden with more moderate voting records than Biden and Kennedy.