REPORT: Dianne Feinstein Stepping Down As Top Democrat On Senate Judiciary Committee

Written by Martin Walsh

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

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California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein will step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“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 said. “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. I will continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years.”

A number of Democratic senators reportedly criticized Feinstein, saying she was not the right person to serve as the top Democrat for the Supreme Court nomination hearings of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he had a “long and serious” talk with Feinstein after the hearings.

Democratic senators heavily criticized Feinstein back in late September while speaking on the condition of anonymity.

One of the senators even allegedly said there is no way Feinstein could pull off leading the Barrett hearings for Democrats.

“She’s not sure what she’s doing,” one Democratic senator allegedly said of Feinstein. “If you take a look at Kavanaugh, we may be short two senators because of that. And if this gets [messed] up, it may be the same result. I think it could impact a number of seats we can win.”

Another Democratic senator reportedly said, “she can’t pull this off.”

Feinstein was responsible for leading the hearings for the Democrats and responded to the criticism beforehand.

“And so it’s difficult for me to see, I don’t know what people expect,” Feinstein said. “I’ve been on the committee for a while. I’ve seen how the committee works and I’ve seen how other chairs on our side of the aisle work. I don’t see, to be very blunt and honest, I don’t see a big difference. I’m prepared, so that’s puzzling to me.”

“Let me say this — I know it’s going to be a fight, I understand that,” Feinstein continued. “I don’t have a lot of tools to use, but I’m going to use what I have. We can try to delay and obstruct but they can run this process through. That doesn’t mean that we won’t fight tooth and nail.”

So who is the frontrunner to take Feinstein’s position on the Senate Judiciary Committee?

It seems as if it’s Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said he will seek to replace Feinstein as the committee’s top Democrat. He is third in seniority on the panel, after Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is currently the top Democrat on the appropriations committee.

Durbin organized the Democratic response during the Barrett hearings, coordinating an effort to focus the criticism on the court’s upcoming consideration of the health care law and away from the nominee personally. He led daily news conferences during breaks in the hearings with the other Democrats on the panel while Feinstein usually did not appear.

“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,” Durbin said in a statement.

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