The battle between the Democratic Party’s far-left progressives and more moderate establishment wing appears to have claimed its first casualty — longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
After receiving tremendous criticism from her party’s left flank over how she handled Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings, Feinstein announced that she will not seek another term as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Fox News reported.
Won’t serve as ranking member
Feinstein said in a statement on Monday, “After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress.”
She continued, “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.”
The 87-year-old senator said that her primary focus in the next term of Congress will be “defeating COVID-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care.”
Praise from Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — who claimed to have had a “long and serious talk” with the ranking Democrat on the committee after the disappointment of the Barrett hearings — responded to Feinstein’s announcement with praise in his own statement, Fox News reported.
“I am deeply grateful for Senator Feinstein’s leadership and contributions to our caucus and country as the Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee over the last four years,” Schumer said. “As a senior member of the Judiciary, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Rules Committees, I know Senator Feinstein will continue her work as one of the nation’s leading advocates for women’s and voting rights, gun safety reform, civil liberties, health care, and the rights of immigrants who are yearning to become citizens of this great country.”
He continued, “Senator Feinstein’s experience, decades-long relationship with President-elect Biden, and leadership on so many issues will continue to be an asset for our caucus, California, and the country as we begin a new term with the new president.”
Who is next in line?
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) would be next in line to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and he intends to seek that position, The Hill reported.
“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress,” Durbin said in a statement. “I have served on the committee for 22 years and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.”
There has reportedly been some private criticism among other Senate Democrats about Durbin taking the position, however, given that he is a member of the Senate leadership team, there is no rule that prevents him from doing so. The next most likely candidate to fill the role is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Politico noted that several far-left advocacy groups were thrilled at Feinstein’s announcement, unsurprising given that they had been the most critical of her for not pressing Barrett harder during the hearings and were aghast that Feinstein had praised Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — and even given him a hug — at the conclusion of those hearings.