Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein

Calls to remove Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinYouth climate activists march outside California homes of Pelosi and Feinstein Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (Calif.) as the senior Democrat and potential next chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee are being met with silence from her Democratic colleagues.

While there is frustration with some members over Feinstein, who hugged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOn The Money: Yellen, Powell brush off inflation fears | Fed keeps rates steady, upgrades growth projections Democrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Bipartisan infrastructure group grows to 20 senators MORE (R-S.C.) after the contentious confirmation hearings for Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight McConnell signals GOP would block Biden Supreme Court pick in '24 MORE, President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE’s nominee to the Supreme Court, there is also widespread support for the California lawmaker.

Any decision to remove Feinstein from serving as chairwoman or ranking minority member in the 117th Congress, which convenes in January, would have to be approved by a vote of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus. And the support for such a move does not appear to be there.


“The caucus is very, very cautious of those kind of things. They all kind of acknowledge that there but for the grace of God go I. They all want to retire with their boots on, or not retire,” said one Democratic aide. “I would be really surprised if you saw anything that approaches a real effort to push her out, or anyone else."

One Democratic senator on Monday said there is “frustration” over Feinstein’s style of running the committee, which her defenders characterize as “civil” or “moderate” and her detractors call “out of step” with the times and the brass-knuckles style of Trump and his GOP allies.

Feinstein came under sharp criticism last week for praising Barrett’s confirmation hearings as “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” and thanking Graham for his “fairness.”

Graham is a chief Democratic villain for his flip-flop of approving Barrett’s confirmation before a presidential election after saying he would do no such thing. Graham and other Senate Republicans did not give a hearing to Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandSenate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions What's happened to Merrick Garland? MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to the court in March of 2016.

Feinstein, after praising Graham, gave the embattled South Carolina senator, who is facing a tough reelection race, a hug.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the nation’s leading advocates for abortion rights, called for Feinstein to step down for failing to make clear Barrett’s nomination “is illegitimate and this process is a sham.”


Demand Justice, another group on the left opposed to Barrett and Trump’s judicial nominees, said: “It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene.”

Democratic senators and aides, however, say Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees Overnight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' MORE (D-N.Y.) is highly unlikely to move against Feinstein because doing so would risk a nasty confrontation with a high-profile, respected colleague.

Outside groups and Democratic members of the Judiciary panel who are frustrated with Feinstein’s management of the committee would have to whip up a tidal wave of opposition to take her gavel.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill White House gets back to pre-COVID-19 normality MORE (D-Hawaii), a member of the Judiciary Committee, on Monday defended Feinstein’s performance at Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week.

“All of us are very clear on the danger Barrett poses to the [Affordable Care Act], civil rights, voting rights,” said Hirono, praising the job Democrats on the Judiciary panel did last week explaining their objections to the nominee.

Hirono said Feinstein’s compliment of Graham’s handling of the hearing was “being gracious.”

“She banged away like the rest of us during the hearing,” she added.

Feinstein delivered a big moment during Barrett’s first day of answering questions when the nominee refused to state clearly whether Trump had the authority to unilaterally delay the presidential election.

Barrett said she’d need to hear arguments from litigants, read briefs and consult with her law clerks before answering, a moment that went viral.

Feinstein also pressed Barrett on whether she agreed with the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, another hot topic Barrett declined to answer substantively.  

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Harris calls for pathway to citizenship for Dreamers on DACA anniversary MORE (Ill.), who would be next in line for the Judiciary Committee chairmanship — according to seniority — declined on Monday evening to express any interest for the gavel.

“I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said.


He said he wasn’t even aware that one of the biggest abortion rights groups in the country called for Feinstein to step down.

“I haven’t heard that,” he said.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Biden budget expands government's role in economy House narrowly approves .9B Capitol security bill after 'squad' drama MORE (D-Vt.) outranks Durbin — and Feinstein — in seniority on the Judiciary Committee, but he has already served as chairman and ranking minority member of the panel. He is expected to keep his position as the top-ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

After Durbin, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic patience runs out on bipartisan talks Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal MORE (D-R.I.) would be next in seniority to serve as chairman or ranking member of Judiciary.

Whitehouse declined to respond to NARAL Pro-Choice America’s call for Feinstein to step down and noted that Durbin was ahead of him on the seniority ladder.

While the entire Democratic caucus would have to vote on a change at the top of the Judiciary panel, Schumer would have a major role in the decision.


The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC Senate confirms Lina Khan to the FTC MORE (D-Minn.) and on which Schumer sits as the Democratic leader, would make recommendations to the caucus about who should serve as chair or ranking member of a committee.

Those recommendations are generally determined by a senator’s length of continue service on the committee, but the leadership can make a different recommendation if there are important other factors to consider.

Then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden fails to break GOP 'fever' Nevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms MORE (Nev.) almost moved to strip then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after he endorsed Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFive takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly MORE (R-Ariz.) over Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAppeals court affirms North Carolina's 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' Obama: Fox News viewers 'perceive a different reality' than other Americans MORE in the 2008 presidential election.

The chair of the Steering and Outreach Committee is appointed by the Democratic leader and generally does what the leader wants.

But Schumer will have a variety of other challenges to juggle if Democrats win control of the Senate. He will have to navigate the thorny debate over whether to eliminate or curtail the minority party’s power to filibuster legislation, which outside liberal groups are demanding. Picking a fight over Feinstein in such a context might not be desirable.

While there’s some dissatisfaction among a handful of Senate Democrats with Feinstein, there’s little appetite to get into an ugly fight over her future, which could come back to haunt senators. Feinstein would be the first woman to lead the Judiciary panel if Democrats take the majority.


“Dianne Feinstein is a wonderful lady, I thought she did a great job and I support her,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Manchin meets with Texas lawmakers on voting rights Schumer tees up sweeping election bill for vote next week MORE (W.Va.), a centrist Democrat whose ascension to the most senior Democratic position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was challenged at the end of 2018 by some outside environmental groups.

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeBeyond California, a record year for recalls Seattle is first major US city to see 70 percent of residents fully vaccinated, mayor says Rivers, hydropower and climate resilience MORE (D) and Democratic mega-donor Tom SteyerTom SteyerTop 12 political donors accounted for almost 1 of every 13 dollars raised since 2009: study California Democrats weigh their recall options Why we should be leery of companies entering political fray MORE joined activist groups in calling for Manchin to be blocked because of his relationship with coal and energy companies.

But when it came time for the caucus to decide on whether to let Manchin replace Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay Senate confirms Biden's top scientist Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (D-Wash.) as the top Democrat on the panel, there was no serious discussion about circumventing him, according to a Senate Democratic aide familiar with the process.

“You could make the same argument for others,” the first Democrat aide said. “I’d be really surprised if you saw any mobilization whatsoever to try to move on her.”