Sen. Patrick Leahy has decided not to become the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Leahy is the longest serving member of the Senate. He says he decided to remain as chair of the Judiciary Committee, and maintain his seniority on Appropriations.
In a statement released by his office, Leahy said the choice allows him to "protect the Constitution and Vermont."
Garrison Nelson is a political scientist at the University of Vermont. He was surprised by Leahy’s decision. But he says that by staying on Judiciary, Leahy will have the opportunity to work with the White House on possible nominations to the Supreme Court.
And Nelson says congressional reforms have mostly ended the unchecked power of Appropriations Committee chairmen to earmark money to their homes states.
"I think the expectation that somehow that once you become chairman of the Appropriations Committee all sorts of federal funds are going to flow into your home state, those days are over, largely because of the excesses of Ted Stevens of Alaska and Bob Byrd of West Virginia," he says.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski is now in line to chair the Appropriations Committee. Nelson says Vermont will benefit from the close friendship between Mikulski and Leahy.
"Vermont is not going to suffer with Barbara Mikulski because she and Sen. Leahy are very close and very friendly. So she will make sure that Vermont is not over-looked in any kind of appropriation," Nelson says.
The Judiciary Committee will have a full agenda in the next Congress, including immigration reform, gun control and possible nominees to the Supreme Court.