Feinstein squares off with Obama

Feinstein squares off with Obama
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Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE is squaring off with President Obama again, this time over a long-awaited Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation practices.

Feinstein, the senior senator from California and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has repeatedly battled the administration on a string of issues.

An institutionalist who has repeatedly sought to defend congressional power, Feinstein takes her oversight role seriously. And while she is from a left-leaning state, the five-term senator frequently pushes Obama from a centrist point of view.

“She represents discontent from the center, which doesn’t get as much coverage as the concern on the left,” said Bruce Cain, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

Kathryn Pearson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, said Feinstein is clearly not afraid of taking on Obama.

“Sen. Feinstein has expertise and credibility and this is really her legacy in the Senate, these intelligence national security issues,” she said. “She goes where the facts lead her even if it means going against a president of her own party.”

Here’s a look at several issues where Feinstein is challenging Obama.

CIA torture report

Feinstein is delaying the release of a multi-year Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation tactics to pressure the White House to agree to make more of it public.

The Intelligence chairwoman has expressed frustration at the level of redactions in the report. Other Democrats on the Intelligence panel have rallied behind her.

“Given that this is such an historic report and oversight effort, I urge the White House to act swiftly to resolve these issues so we can finally share the report with the American people,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap

Feinstein made it clear earlier this summer that she was not happy with Obama’s failure to notify Congress in advance of the trade of five senior Taliban commanders for American POW Bowe Bergdahl.

“The notification to us is important and I think that it would have been a much better thing to do because you do try to work together,” she told reporters in June.

Feinstein said that deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken called her to apologize for not giving advanced warning.

White House officials argued they needed to act swiftly because Bergdahl’s life was in danger, but Feinstein dismissed that explanation as not holding water.

“I don’t think there was a credible threat,” she told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt.

She revealed the White House may have wanted to circumvent congressional opposition by disclosing that a prisoner swap for Bergdahl was discussed in 2011 and congressional committee chairmen and senior Republicans rejected the proposal.

Snooping on foreign leaders

Feinstein has been a strong proponent of intelligence surveillance programs but she condemned spying on allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She said it was unacceptable that Obama was not aware of what was going on.

“It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002,” she said. “That is a big problem.”

Obama’s fundraising schedule

Feinstein suggested this month that the president should pay more attention to unfolding international crises when asked about his busy fundraising and political schedule

“This is a very hard time,” she said on MSNBC. “I’m not going to tell the president what to do, but I think the world would very much respect his increased attention on this matter, and I think there ought to be increased attention.”


Feinstein has staunchly opposed Obama’s efforts to shift control of drone operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.

The Washington Post reported she included a provision in an omnibus spending bill at the beginning of this year to maintain the intelligence agency’s control of lethal drone strikes.

Feinstein expressed doubts the Defense Department would exercise as much patience and discretion in trying to prevent collateral damage.

ObamaCare’s promise to let people keep their health plans

Feinstein co-sponsored Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) bill that would let people keep their healthcare plans even if they do not meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

While Landrieu is from a red state and faces a difficult reelection race this year, Feinstein didn’t need to sign on to the bill for political reasons.

Feinstein explained at the time that her office received 31,000 calls, emails and letters raising concern about the issue. She called Landrieu’s legislation “a commonsense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market.”

The White House objected to Landrieu’s bill because it would have allowed insurance companies to continue selling what it view as sub-standard plans. A White House spokesman said a similar House proposal would “undermine the essential promise of the Affordable Care Act.”

National security leaks

In 2012, Feinstein admonished the president to crack down on national security leaks from the White House.

“The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it,” she said in remarks at the World Affairs Council.

Feinstein backed off her comments after Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, tried to use them as ammo against Obama.

“I’m on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks as being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets,” she said. “I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks.”