(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s looking forward to setting a new agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.
Democrats regained control of the U.S. Senate on Election Day and Leahy says this means he’ll once again become chairman of the Judiciary committee.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Leahy previously was chairman of the committee for 17 months in 2001 and 2002 after Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party and threw control of the Senate to the Democrats.
As the ranking minority member of the committee for the past 4 years, Leahy has been very critical of some of President Bush’s judicial nominees and he’s fought most of the Administration’s efforts to limit the legal rights of detainees in the war on terror.
Leahy says he’s eager to have the panel re-examine many of these issues:
(Leahy) “I’m very very excited. I’m really looking forward to this. I’m going to get on the plane and go back to Washington tomorrow. The last few times I’ve gotten on the plane to go back to Washington they had to almost bring me out kicking and screaming. I’m going back very very very eager to get back there. It’s going to be the first time in a long time that I’ve been this eager and I’m sorry if I should probably be more restrained on that, but that’s the way I feel.”
(Kinzel) Leahy says he hopes to meet with the President in the next week to discuss the framework for future judicial appointments.
(Leahy) “The message I will send to the White House, and I will talk to the president about this, is let’s seek consensus nominees. I don’t want ideologues. I don’t want ideologues of the right or ideologues of the left. These people are supposed to be independent. These judges have lifetime positions. They serve long after the president’s gone, long after most members of the Senate are gone. So let’s seek the best, and I think that’ll happen.”
(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s pleased that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down this week because he believes Rumsfeld would have strongly opposed any recommendations of a special presidential task force to change U.S. strategy in Iraq.
Leahy thinks newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates will look more favorably at changing the current course of action.
(Leahy) “That whatever recommendations they make to literally change the course of figuring out a way to get us out of there that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney would fight tooth and nail. Rumsfeld is gone. Bob Gates is a far more pragmatic person. This is probably years too late, years too late that the Administration is admitting that there are mistakes in Iraq and they’ve got to find a way to get out.”
(Kinzel) Leahy says he wants the Judiciary committee to provide greater oversight of the federal government including a reorganization of the F.B.I.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier