Rep. Bob Goodlatte is in “prime position” to become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans retain control of the chamber in the next Congress, according to Politico.
Current chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is stepping down after this Congress because he is at his term limit under House GOP rules. But the likely field is narrow, and Goodlatte has already signaled his interest in the position, which maintains direct oversight of the Justice Department.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who is facing a likely re-election, said in a recent interview with C-SPAN that it would “be a great honor to serve as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.” If the GOP maintains control of the House, Reps. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) and Howard Coble (N.C.) also have seniority over Goodlatte on the committee, noted the National Journal. Sensenbrenner served as the committee’s chairman from 2001 to 2007. Ultimately, though, Goodlatte told National Journal that the House Republican Steering Committee will have the final say in who gets the chairmanship. House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) is the chairman of the committee as the highest-ranking Republican in the House.
Politico noted on Tuesday that Goodlatte, who currently chairs the intellectual property, competition and internet subcommittee, has made his name on technology issues. He helped draft the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which eventually was shelved after intense blowback from some who believed it would put a damper on free speech online.
The Virginia Republican has been involved in the ongoing Fast and Furious matter, as well. He had an exchange with Attorney General Eric Holder in June during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about whether senior leadership at the department were aware of the gun-walking tactics during the investigation. Goodlatte questioned Holder about why Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein had not been held accountable for their alleged roles in the botched operation.
If the Democrats were to win control of the House for the next Congress, the most senior lawmakers are current ranking member John Conyers (Mich.), Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.). Conyers served as the chairman of the committee from 2007 to 2011.
Smith, a Texas Republican who has aggressively challenged Holder over the Fast and Furious probe, cannot seek another term as the chairman of the committee under House Republican rules. The rules dictate that no Republican can serve more than 6 years as a chairman of the committee. Time spent as ranking member of a committee counts toward the 6 year limit.