Musical Chairs [Updated]

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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) passed up the opportunity to succeed Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) not once but twice. Leahy is the most senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee but is opting to stay put as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and of the appropriations state and foreign operations subcommittee.

So Inouye’s spot atop the defense subcommittee is still up for grabs. Industry and congressional sources say Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants the job, but Durbin’s office has not responded to questions about the shift, nor has the office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the full committee chair.

For Durbin to chair the subcommittee, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would also have to pass. Durbin is the Senate’s Majority Whip and currently leads the appropriations financial services subcommittee.

In the debate over cutting the deficit, Durbin has been adamant that budget reductions should be split evenly among defense and non-defense. On the tight-knit defense subcommittee, Durbin rarely weighs in on defense industry debates. But he does represent the state in which Boeing is headquartered.

If he did take the subcommittee, Mikulski could remain as the top Democrat on the commerce, justice, science subcommittee that controls funding for NASA.

Update: An industry source says Mikulski does want the chair. If she does, Durbin may have to fight the full committee chair to get it.

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