Over at the Iowa Independent, Mike Lillis takes a look at the changed incentives for Chuck Grassley now that Arlen Specter has ditched the party. Grassley is currently the Ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. That's a big job. A powerful job. It makes him key to health reform and taxes and Social Security and trade. It lets him serve on all the subcommittees. It lets him ask a lot of questions at hearings. It lets him exercise his BFF relationship with Max Baucus. If Democrats lose the majority, it makes him the all-powerful commander of the Senate Finance Committee.
But due to the rules of the Senate GOP, Grassley is termed out as the ranking member of Finance in 2010. So there's some question as to what he'll do next. And Arlen Specter's defection potentially answers it. With Specter gone, Grassley could become the ranking member the Senate Judiciary Committee, a spot he's admitted that he covets but hasn't pursued "out of respect for Specter." With Specter gone, he could take it immediately, and hold it for years to come. But it would mean giving up Finance before his 2010 deadline.
Another option is for him to wait until become ranking member on the Budget Committee when Judd Gregg retires. That would be a seamless transition from Finance: He'd make the move in 2010. “From my heart," Grassley has said, "I’d rather have Judiciary than Budget.” But getting Judiciary would mean giving up Finance to Orrin Hatch. Grassley wouldn't lose his seat but he would lose a lot of his power and relevance, and FInance has just about never been as relevant as it is right now.