Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a prospective 2020 presidential contender, will keep a high-profile seat on the Judiciary Committee she risked losing amid Republican gains in the chamber, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday.
Harris, a former prosecutor and California state attorney general, risked having to forfeit the seat as committees were reconfigured to reflect the Republicans’ expanded majority starting next month. Harris is the most junior member of the panel.
But Senate leaders cut a deal with Republicans to expand the size of the committee, a move that will allow Harris to remain and another GOP member to join the panel, according to a person familiar with the arrangement who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“Good news this morning: @SenKamalaHarris will get to keep her spot on the Judiciary Committee!” Schumer said on Twitter, adding: “As a former prosecutor, @SenKamalaHarris has strived every day for a more fair judicial system for all Americans. I’m proud that we successfully fought to keep her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Adding a seat to the Republican side of the dais could pose problems for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), since the GOP has traditionally struggled to recruit members to the committee that oversees judicial nominations and issues such as guns, immigration and abortion.
The Judiciary Committee’s investigations and Supreme Court confirmation battles have commanded regular media coverage since President Trump entered the Oval Office. It is the kind of exposure a new senator usually could only dream of, and with matters ranging from an attorney general confirmation to oversight of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe on next year’s agenda, its limelight will not soon fade.
In a Senate full of lawyers, Harris is seen as one of the Democratic Party’s most talented interrogators — skills she displayed during the committee’s contentious hearing to address sexual assault allegations brought against Brett M. Kavanaugh, who eventually won Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court. She is also one of only two African Americans on the committee — the other being the Democrats’ next-most-junior member, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), who also has presidential aspirations.
Shortly after the midterm elections, Harris told Schumer she wanted to stay on the panel, according to her spokeswoman, Lily Adams.
For Democrats who have repeatedly pointed out the Republican side of the dais is all male and all white, the prospect of losing Harris is anathema.
An array of liberal groups also heavily lobbied for her retention on the committee.
After this year’s midterm elections, Republicans are expanding the number of seats they hold in the Senate from 51 to 53.
Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.