A prime chairmanship is poised to come open in the U.S. Senate next year, but there’s currently a major issue facing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The problem? Not a single Republican senator wants to take over the soon-to-be vacant chairmanship.
Georgia GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson announced that he’s resigning from Congress and will retire at the end of December due to ongoing health issues, and his replacement is proving to be difficult to find.
Isakson was the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, a panel responsible for setting and enforcing standards of behavior for senators and their staff.
However, when 9 Republican senators were asked if they would like to take over the position, all of them basically said “no.”
The problem isn’t that Republicans can’t find a qualified lawmaker to take over and lead the committee.
The issue is that there seems to be a total lack of enthusiasm regarding the nature of the Committee’s work.
The members of the Ethics Committee investigate their colleagues, so not many are interested in spending all day looking into everything their colleagues do and say.
Given there seems to be absolutely no desire by any Republican senators to take over the position, McConnell may have to pick a successor to Isakson.
Many are turning down the chairmanship because it can be a damaging position for those trying to form connections with other senators.
But 9 GOP senators who spoke with The Hill, including current members of the committee, had a nearly universal response when asked if they wanted to take over the Ethics Committee: Thanks, but no thanks.
“Uh, I’m going to say probably not,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of GOP leadership, laughing when asked if she would like to chair the committee. “I don’t think that’s a sought-after position.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), another member of leadership, said he doesn’t know who will take over the committee. Asked if he was interested, he answered with an emphatic, drawn out “nooooo.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who previously served as vice chairman, acknowledged that it’s up to the leader but said he’s not interested.
“I served my time on the Ethics Committee, and I think I’ll give somebody else the opportunity,” he said.
Several Republicans who currently oversee other committees also indicated they had no interest in taking on Ethics.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he would rather undergo a dental procedure.
“Are you kidding? Are you kidding? I’d rather have a root canal,” he said.
Asked if he wanted to take over the committee, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) responded, “Oh no, no, no, but I’m sure that the leadership will put somebody in there that’s solid, good, substantive person. I like what I’m doing.”
“I would like to stay as chairman of the Appropriations Committee,” Shelby continued before cupping his hand over his mouth and adding, “So would most of the other senators.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) started laughing when asked if he was interested in chairing the Ethics Committee, saying, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”
Grassley noted that he’s currently the chairman of the Finance Committee.
When told that Isakson chairs two committees, Grassley remarked, “He does? Well, don’t tell anybody else that.”
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — who oversee the Aging, Judiciary and Banking committees, respectively — also passed on taking over the Ethics gavel.
The Ethics Committee normally flies under the radar, but things could get very interesting in the next month.