Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) said yesterday that he will stick with his plan to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the new Congress, even if Armed Services becomes available to him.
Thurmond would be in position to take over Armed Services if Sen. John Tower (R-Tex.) gives up that prospective chairmanship to become President-elect Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense.
The next question is the musical chairs game now being set up on Capitol Hill is whether a Tower departure would put the committee under veteran Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) or freshman Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).
A senator cannot chair two committees at once under Senate rules, so Goldwater may have to choose between the Select Committee on Intelligence, where he has been vice chairman, or Armed Services, where he ranks behind Tower and Thurmond.
A senator who said he knows Goldwater's position said Goldwater would take Armed Services. Goldwater is not talking.
A Senate source said conservatives want to put a their stamp on the Senate, and in that context it is being argued that Thurmond should not relinquish the Judiciary chairmanship because this would put a liberal -- Sen. Charles Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) -- in the saddle at Judiciary.
Similarly, if Goldwater left Intelligence, conservative Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) would be next in line. But Garn is expected to become chairman of the Banking Committee. This would put the more liberal Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) in line to run the Intelligence Committee.