SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced Monday that she would not seek the chairman position or ranking member position on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the next session of congress.
The 87-year-old senator who is the current ranking Democrat on the committee said she’s stepping down to focus on addressing climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats – wildfire and drought – that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues,” Feinstein’s announcement read. “I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration.”
The senator took the seat in 2017. She’s since received much criticism for her handling of both the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The most recent backlash came after Feinstein closed out the proceedings with an embrace for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., publicly thanking the chairman for a job well done. Democrats had fiercely opposed Barrett’s nomination to replace the late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” Feinstein said at the end of the hearing.
Those actions put her immediately in the crosshairs of some influential liberals who had been questioning for some time whether she was right for the job.
“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, which opposes conservative nominees to the courts. “If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene.”
While much of the backlash came from the progressive side of the left, after Barrett’s confirmation even Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to have a “very serious conversation” with Feinstein afterwards.
It appears that Feinstein will not seek any ranking positions on any senate committees in the next legislative session. The majority in the senate will be decided by runoffs in Georgia for two senate seats.
Previously, Feinstein was chair on the Senate Intelligence Committee, where she oversaw the declassification of a federal probe into the CIA’s use of torture.
“I look forward to continuing to serve as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations and Rules committees as we work with the Biden administration on priorities like gun safety, immigration reform and addressing inequities in criminal justice,” Feinstein wrote. “I will continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years.”
The next two Dem senators in line for the chair/ranking member position are Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).
Sheldon Whitehouse, who would be next in line for the top spot on Senate Judiciary after Dick Durbin, has spent years trying to bring attention to the importance of the courts, and published reports exposing the partisan overreach and corporate bias of the Roberts Court.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) November 23, 2020
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