Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) “announced today that he has appointed Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) to serve as interim chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, following the passing of former subcommittee chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-West Virginia),” according to a press release.
The Hill notes that Senator Lautenberg passed Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for this spot.
Lautenberg is the sixth-ranking member of the Homeland Security panel. Four Democrats who rank ahead of him already serve as appropriations subcommittee chairmen and cannot take over a second subpanel.
Landrieu, however, does not chair an appropriations panel and technically has more seniority than Lautenberg, even though the New Jersey senator was elected to a fifth term in 2008.
Lautenberg lost 18 years of seniority when he retired from the Senate in 2000. Democratic leaders convinced him to run for Senate again in 2002 when Republicans threatened to capture the seat held by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), who became embroiled in an ethics scandal.
Update: It now appears that Landrieu is challenging this decision.
“I haven’t agreed to that,” said Landrieu. “I’m next in line to be chair.”
“I have spoken to leadership about it but I’ve not agreed,” Landrieu said. “If anyone is going to be the interim chair, it would probably be myself until things get worked out.”
(credit image – daylife/associated press)