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December 17, 2012

After Inouye's Death, Leahy Named Senate President Pro Tem, In Line to Chair Appropriations

Leahy.Aug1By voice vote Monday night, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was elected President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate, becoming third-in-line for the nation's presidency.

The solemn occasion followed the death of 88-year-old Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), whose 49 years in the Senate made him its second-longest-serving member in history. The Pro Tem's mostly ceremonial baton is now passed to Leahy, who's served a mere 37 years in office.

As one anonymous Twitter user with the handle "@SrWHOfficial" tweeted shortly after Inouye's death, "A Grateful Dead fan will become President Pro Tempore."

So long as President Obama, Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner stay out of trouble, the real import of Inouye's passing — at least for Vermont — is this: Leahy now becomes the most senior member of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and, quite likely, its next chairman.

Leahy served for eight years as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Since 2001, he's served as either chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — depending on the party in power. But the real golden ring for Leahy has always been the chairmanship of Appropriations, which has tremendous influence over the nation's spending priorities.

For the Green Mountain State, that means even more pork from St. Patrick.

Leahy's spokesman declined to comment Monday night on whether he'd trade Judiciary for Appropriations (senators can chair just one full committee), but Politico reported that Vermont's senior senator "is widely expected" to make the switch. The Wall Street Journal was a little more cautious, noting that Leahy "thoroughly enjoy[s]" heading Judiciary and could decline the promotion.

As we noted last week, the other two members of Vermont's congressional delegation recently got their own promotions.

File photo of Leahy by Andy Bromage.

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