Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is retiring at the end of 2018, and Collins’ name has been recently floated as a possible successor should the GOP retain control of the House after the midterms.
A former lawyer, Collins is not a senior member of the panel. But allies believe he could make a credible push for the position for several reasons.
First and foremost, retirements. Out of the 12 Republicans more senior than Collins, nearly half are leaving at the end of the current Congress. Others are said to be pursuing the chairmanships of different committees, and several are members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that’s often a thorn in the side of GOP leaders. Members of that group are unlikely to be subsequently rewarded with a gavel by top party officials.
Collins, on the other hand, is the No. 5-ranking Republican in the party leadership and has donated substantial sums to the party, a factor taken into consideration as officials dole out plum committee assignments.
The third-term Republican said he’s interested in the top Judiciary position.
“Oh yes, we’re looking into it,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been very active on Judiciary.”
The panel has jurisdiction over immigration, gun control, criminal justice and voting rights issues. It would also lead potential impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump should Democrats win control of the House in the midterm elections and choose to pursue that path.
Collins, a vocal Trump supporter, has focused his committee work on modernizing music copyright laws and pushing for legislation that would reduce recidivism rates in prisons over the last year.
The chatter comes as the state’s congressional delegation looks to rebuild its clout after losing decades of seniority and institutional knowledge in recent years.
A decision on the committee chairmanship likely won’t come until early next year, and a lot could change politically before then. No other Republicans have announced formal bids to replace Goodlatte, but it’s possible the more senior Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, or junior Republicans could throw their hats into the ring.
“We respect the chairman. We’re going to continue to do that,” Collins said. “Those conversations will continue later, but right now we’re interested and we’re looking at it.”
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