WASHINGTON — George LeMieux may slide into Mel Martinez's office chair with ease, but it's unlikely he will retain all of the retiring senator's committee assignments.
The U.S. Senate is an institution built on longevity, and while Martinez was not there long, he had some good assignments, including armed services, banking and commerce. He also was the ranking Republican on the special committee on aging.
Other senators already may be eying those spots. How it shakes out will be clear in early September, when lawmakers return from summer vacation and the Senate Republican Conference meets.
LeMieux can probably count on keeping Martinez's digs in the Russell Senate Office Building, which is celebrating its centennial this year. Martinez's staff has been working with Senate leaders to ensure Gov. Charlie Crist's pick can keep office No. 356, making the transition easier.
Martinez, who recently announced he was leaving office to spend more time with family in Orlando, is planning on delivering a farewell speech on the Senate floor about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9. His resignation would be effective at noon. Martinez plans to stick around that week to introduce LeMieux to fellow senators and attend his swearing-in. Sometime next week, the two men will meet to discuss issues.
"George is bright, capable, and an accomplished administrator," Martinez said in a statement Friday.
Two major issues await Florida's junior senator: health care reform and an equally contentions energy proposal that includes mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
Staffing decisions have not been made, but Martinez employees are said to be willing to stay on with LeMieux.
LeMieux becomes the 186th appointed senator since 1913, according to the Senate Historical Office. The 40-year-old lawyer will also be the youngest current member, taking that title from New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who is 42.
Alex Leary can be reached at [email protected]