Lindsey Graham is now poised to take over as chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee

  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley announced he would leave his post as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of the year to take the top spot on the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Grassley's departure from the Judiciary Committee allows the next most senior Republican to take the gavel, which in this case is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley announced on Friday his intent to leave his post as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of the year to chair the Committee on Finance.

Grassley's decision opens up the opportunity for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the next most senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, to take the gavel at a time when judicial nominations are a central focus on the Trump administration.

"The economy is better than it’s been in years and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican President and a Republican majority in Congress," Grassley said in a statement. "Looking ahead, at the Finance Committee, I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves."

Read more: Lindsey Graham has transformed from a 'RINO' to an icon of the right

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Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley talks to a supporter at Big Barn Harley Davidson before the Joni Ernst?s 3rd Annual Roast and Ride in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., June 3, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian C. Frank)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks to reporters about recent revelations of President Donald Trump sharing classified information with Russian Officials on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 16, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein talk during a hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" featuring testimony from FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch as Senator Orrin Hatch (L) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. Supreme Court judge nominee Neil Gorsuch is greeted by ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) while Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) looks on as Gorsuch arrives at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)

Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shake hands with former clerks of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch before their news conference in support of confirming Gorsuch as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) attend President Donald Trump address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, listens as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testify during the Senate Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election on Monday, May 8, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks to constituents at a town hall meeting in Iowa Falls, Iowa on February 21, 2017.

(Photo by Rachel Mummey for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 1: President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, looks on as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks to reporters following their meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) participate in a mark up session in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee delayed the vote on Sen. Jeff Session's nomination to be U.S. attorney general by a week at the request of Feinstein. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 03: Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is administered an oath by Vice President Joe Biden, as his wife Barbara looks on, during swearing-in ceremony in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, January 03, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 29: Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, left, meets with fellow committee member and Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
FBI director nominee James Comey (2nd R) appears with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (L), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (2nd L) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R) before testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington July 9, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Senator Chuck Grassley talks to supporter Allan Frandson before the Republican Party of Iowa's Regan Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) delivers remarks at a bi-partisan news conference on criminal justice reform, The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
From left: US Vice President Joe R. Biden, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), US President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wait for a meeting about the Supreme Court vacancy in the Oval Office of the White House March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks before Republican nominee Donald Trump arrives at "Joni's Roast and Ride" in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., August 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo AllegriU.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) welcomes Representative Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of health and human services, in Grassley's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Senator Charles 'Chuck' Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, smiles as he arrives to a confirmation hearing for Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) participates in a news conference at the Capitol after a vote April 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch with a vote of 54-45. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
John Kasich, governor of Ohio and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, left, speak with Senator Charles 'Chuck' Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, while being introduced during a town hall meeting at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. In the chaos that is the New Hampshire Republican primary, one candidate is steering clear of the bumper-car madness and quietly creeping ahead of his rivals. Last week Kasich placed second in New Hampshire in five out of six recent polls, behind longstanding front-runner Donald Trump. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 27: From left, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, applaud President Barack Obama as he speaks about earmark reform during his first State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)
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The top spot on the Finance Committee is being vacated by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. 

"The Finance Committee will be in good hands with Senator Grassley at the helm," Hatch said in a statement. "Chuck has a proven history of leadership at the committee and knows the ins and outs of its sprawling jurisdiction. I am confident Chairman Grassley will carry out a robust agenda that will build on tax reform’s recent success and continue to make progress in the health care, trade and oversight spaces."

Grassley, who will also be replacing Hatch as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, has now left an opening on the Judiciary Committee for Graham to fill.

Graham made a name for himself as the impeachment manager during the Bill Clinton administration, but in recent months has skyrocketed in popularity with Republicans and developed a close personal bond with President Donald Trump.

Graham taking over the Judiciary gavel is notable because of how he conducted himself during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. An outside counsel had been hired to probe then-nominee Kavanaugh on behalf of Republicans, until Graham took over during his turn for questioning to excoriate Democrats on the committee.

Graham vowed revenge on Democrats he says treated Kavanaugh unfairly, and broke a long personal policy of his to not campaign against his colleagues.

After the election, Graham called the Republican Senate gains "Kavanaugh's Revenge" and credited Republican voters who were outraged with the process.

"Virtually all Senate Democrats running in Trump states who voted against Brett Kavanaugh were defeated," he said in the statement after Election Day. "Their constituents held them responsible for being part of a despicable smear campaign orchestrated by the left. These Democrats showed more allegiance to the left than to their constituents who support qualified, conservative judges like Brett Kavanaugh."

Becoming Judiciary Committee chairman could bring Graham even further into the spotlight as he shepherds through Trump's judicial nominees.

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Lindsey Graham and President Trump
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Lindsey Graham and President Trump
US President Donald Trump (R) jokes with US Senator Chuck Grassley (L), R-Iowa,that he likes Sen. Lindsey Graham(L) R-SC during a meeting with Republican members of the Senate about immigration at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd L) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) listen during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump met with Republican members of the Senate to discuss immigration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) scratches his brow as he stands behind President Donald Trump during an event with Republican lawmakers to mark passage of sweeping tax overhaul legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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