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Isakson Replaces Thomas on Senate Ethics Committee

The Senate tonight approved Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) as the replacement for the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) on the Ethics Committee. Thomas died last week after a seven-month battle with cancer, and Isakson's appointment allows a high-profile probe to move forward.

By unanimous consent, Isakson -- a low-key senator elected in 2004 -- was approved to take on the sensitive committee assignment as the panel is already in the middle of an investigation into Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-N.M.) role in the firing of the U.S. attorney for New Mexico.

The panel, led by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), is evenly divided, with three senators from each party serving on it. Isakson is the second replacement involved in the Domenici probe. Soon after the committee announced the start of the probe three months ago, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) recused himself from the investigation because of his close relationship with former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who ran unsuccessfully last year against Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), a close acolyte of Domenici's.

David C. Iglesias, the ousted prosecutor, has alleged that both Wilson and Domenici pressured him to bring indictments in an Albuquerque corruption case on the eve of the Nov. 2006 election, a move that could have been embarrassing to Madrid's campaign. Congressional investigations into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys have shown that Iglesias was not on any of the firing lists, drawn up over more than 18 months in 2005 and 2006, until Election Day -- about 10 days after Domenici ended his phone call with Iglesias by hanging up on him.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has taken Salazar's spot on the panel solely for the Domenici investigation, while Salazar remains on Ethics for all other issues.

Thomas had served on Ethics the entire decade, working on some of the more sensitive cases in recent times, including the cash-and-gifts-for-favors case against former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) and allegations that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) inappropriately leaked classified intelligence information.

No decision has been made on who will take his seat on the coveted Finance Committee, which has oversight of tax, trade and entitlement issues. Wyoming Republican officials will make three recommendations next week to the Democratic governor, who will then select the GOP replacement for Thomas through the November 2008 elections, when a permanent successor will be elected to fill out the rest of his term through 2012.

By Paul Kane  |  June 13, 2007; 8:34 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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