Under normal circumstances, Leahy would become ranking member of the Judiciary Committee when the new Senate is sworn in next January. But Politico, citing "four sources familiar with his discussions with Senate Democrats," says Leahy is considering trading up to become ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee instead:
With Democrats now returning to the minority and the GOP vowing to restore the beleaguered appropriations process, Leahy may view the post as more influential in the next Congress.
Though Leahy is the senior-most member of the Senate — and of the Appropriations, Judiciary and Agriculture committees — Democrats elect leadership positions by secret ballot. To take the gavel at Appropriations, he would have to displace its current chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). And, according to Politico, "Some Democratic insiders predict Mikulski would defeat Leahy in a one-on-one race."
Leahy shocked the political establishment in December 2012 when, following the death of senator Daniel Inouye, he declined the chairmanship of Appropriations in favor of Judiciary.
At the time, the latter committee's agenda included a number of hot-button issues, including immigration reform, gun laws and, as usual, plenty of court appointments. Leahy argued that, as the senior-most member of Appropriations, he could still bring home the bacon to Vermont, while exerting his influence over the legal system.
Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, told Politico, “The Judiciary Committee has a lot of unfinished business from this Congress (toward the top of the list is his USA FREEDOM Act), and he’s focused on that for now."
In a statement sent to Seven Days later Tuesday morning, Leahy denied interest in challenging Mikulsi:
"Barbara Mikulski is doing great work on the Appropriations Committee," Leahy said. "We are a great team and as senior member of the committee I've told her she has my full support. Democrats have a strong team of leaders across the committees. I have told her that I support keeping her in that role in the new Congress and that I will continue to lead the Judiciary Committee on our side of the aisle."